What is the the DPA?

The Destitute Persons Act is a legal act against vagrancy, which aims “to provide for the care and rehabilitation of destitute persons and for the control of vagrancy.” The law is based on a British law that can be traced back to 1824. The DPA replaced the Vagrants Act (a similar law introduced in 1965) in 1977.

How does the DPA define a “destitute person”?

(a)   Any person found begging in a public place in such a way as to cause or to be likely to cause annoyance to persons frequenting the place or otherwise to create a nuisance;

(b)   any idle person found in a public place, whether or not he is begging, who has no visible means of subsistance or place of residence or is unable to give a satisfactory account of himself.

What constitutes “begging” under the DPA?

The Act defines the act of “begging” quite widely as to include whether or not there is any pretence of singing, playing, performing, offering anything for sale or otherwise – as long as it to induce people into give alms.

What happens to people who are detained under the DPA?

The Act gives administrative powers for the Minister in Charge (currently the Minister for Women, Family and Community) to establish and manage welfare homes and make any rules relating to the “care, control, discipline and rehabilitation of persons residing therein”. A destitute person can be produced “before a Magistrate within twenty-four hours”. The destitute person under the Act will then be sent to a welfare home temporarily pending a report by a social welfare officer (within one month).

How long do they have to stay at the welfare homes?

They can be ordered to stay at the homes for up to three years. This also applies to persons who come to the welfare homes voluntarily. They cannot leave without permission. Escaping from these homes or even resisting to be taken to a magistrate by the authorised persons would be an offence under this Act and if they are convicted in court they are liable to be sent to a welfare home or imprisonment up to three months.

Abdul Qayyum Jumadi

Find out more about DPA here.

CORRECTION: The original article stated that “The Act gives administrative powers for the Home Minister to establish and manage welfare homes”. This has been amended to the “Minister in Charge”. (31/07/2014)

CORRECTION: The original article stated that “The Act was known as the Vagrants Act until 1977”. This has been amended to “The DPA replaced the Vagrants Act in 1997”. (04/08/2014)