A group defending the rights of beggars in the canton of Vaud on Wednesday lost its appeal against a new law approved last year that will see begging banned in the canton.
Last autumn the Vaud parliament narrowly voted in favour of an initiative proposed by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) to ban begging across the canton.
Under the new law, which is yet to come into effect, fines of 50-100 francs can be imposed on people who beg in the street. That goes up to 500-2,000 francs for anyone who sends minors out to beg or who organizes begging rings.
Appealing to the constitutional court, a group acting in the name of eight beggars said the forthcoming law infringed several fundamental rights, including the freedoms of movement and expression as well as economic freedom, reported news agencies.
The law could also be considered discriminatory against certain groups of people such as the Roma, it argued.
But the judges threw out the appeal and refused to annul the forthcoming anti-begging law.
Four out of five judges said the new law fulfilled the criteria of being legal, proportional and in the public interest.
The dissenting judge said a distinction could be made between passive begging and active begging and that only the second type should be banned because “passive begging does not restrict passers-by”.
The four other judges disagreed, saying that even passive begging can be an annoyance for the population and that it can be difficult for the police to distinguish between the two types.
Acting for the appellants, lawyer Xavier Rubli said they were “disappointed” by the decision and that they may still appeal again to the Swiss federal court – the country’s highest authority.
Following the Vaud government’s decision last autumn a committee made up of various charities and left-wing parties proposed to challenge the decision by putting it to a referendum, but their initiative didn’t get the required number of signatures.
There is no federal legislation on begging in Switzerland, but a number of cities and communes have imposed bans at local level, including Geneva, Basel and Zurich.