Helping beggars is to become an offence in Norway
Anyone offering a homeless person a cup of coffee or a sandwich on the streets in Norway could soon risk six months to a year in jail under a proposed new law.
The Norwegian government wants to introduce a national ban on organised begging, which will criminalise not only beggars, but also those deemed to have helped them in any way.
City authorities in Oslo are in uproar at the proposed law, which they say the government is trying to rush through without proper debate, with only three weeks allowed for consultation.
The government says the new law is needed to combat an influx of organised begging gangs in recent years, which it says are a public nuisance and have brought a rise in crime.
But opponents say the proposed law is too broad and will affect ordinary citizens trying to help those in need.
"The way I read the proposed law is that if you give a hungry person something to eat or drink, or offer them somewhere to sleep, then you are helping begging and you will be liable to imprisonment or a fine," Marianne Borgen, an Oslo city councillor, said.
"We should all be able to show our humanity and help individuals. Of course the government didn't mean to criminalise you or me if we give someone a cup of coffee, but under the proposed law we would be liable to prosecution." (© Daily Telegraph, London)