The Offensive Weapons Bill misses the target

(Guest post by Jon Francis). There is proposed legislation going through Westminster called the Offensive Weapons Bill. This Bill covers a number of areas including online knife sales, sales of acid and a ban of two types of currently legal firearms. Some of it is very sensible; some of it stupid and blatantly opportunistic. The principal issue with the Bill is a proposal to ban high muzzle energy rifles (.50” BMG and above – a proposed 10,000 ft.lbs. limit) and a limited number of rifles which are deemed to be ‘rapid-firing’, such as VZ58 MARS. These firearms are held by legitimate target…

Letter to councils against abortion clinic ‘buffer zones’

The Manifesto Club was a signatory on a letter to councils considering PSPOs outside abortion clinics – along with co-signatories Big Brother Watch, Index on Censorship, Peter Tatchell, and the Freedom Association. The letter was sent to the following councils: Lambeth, Richmond, Southwark, Portsmouth, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.   To whom it may concern, We are writing to express our grave concern about your council’s plans to introduce a PSPO targeting protest outside an abortion clinic. We respect a woman’s right to abortion, and her right to seek this service safely, without obstruction or harassment. However, we are also defenders the rights to…

PSPOs criminalise punt touts and A-boards

Cambridge Council has issued 78 fines for punt touting, since the ban was brought through in 2016. There have also been seven convictions of the offence of verbal punt touting in the city centre. The fines for breaking the PSPO have now been used to pay for a ‘new dedicated punt tout enforcement officer’, with sole responsibility for catching people illegally offering people a ride in a punt. This is a classic case of officious laws being used to support an officious bureaucracy. A Colchester trader is refusing to pay the fine for A-boards, issued under the council’s PSPO. The cafe owner…

The inhumane criminalisation of the homeless – latest news

An investigation by the Guardian has found that over 50 councils have introduced PSPOs targeting the homeless, and have issued hundreds of fines and prosecutions. These included a man imprisoned in Gloucester for begging, and another man fined when a child dropped a two-pound coin on his sleeping bag. The quotes from homeless people in Kettering are particularly striking, as they described how the PSPO had made their lives increasingly difficult, with fines for sleeping in doorways and the threat of prison for begging. (Kettering Council bragged about how many people it had taken to court for breaching the PSPO, who received fines of…

Victory for the Kennel Club on dog PSPO

Well done to the Kennel Club for leading the first successful legal challenge of a PSPO.   The Richmond PSPO was so broad that it prohibited dogs from ‘annoying’ other dogs; and also prohibited any form of ‘damage’ to grass, which could include dog urination (see our post on the PSPO text).   The judge has now struck out these conditions.   This is an impressive achievement, since the grounds for legal appeal are very narrow, and the process fraught with risk and financial cost.   The Kennel Club has been courageous and did a very good job putting together the legal…

Manifesto Club response to Ealing Council PSPO

Ealing Council launched a public consultation on its proposed PSPO outside a Marie Stopes abortion clinic. The draft PSPO would prevent all pro-life gatherings and vigils in the vicinity of the clinic. Here is a summary of our response to the consultation below. Dear Ealing Council We have grave reservations about your planned PSPO, and believe that it is not justified under existing Statutory Guidance. We visited the site for several hours, and found the protests to be respectful and calm, and not disruptive or harassing. There was one vigil member by the gate, who offered a leaflet to women entering the clinic,…

Protect the Forest of Dean sheep!

There are new calls to crack down on the traditional practice of sheep commoning in the Forest of Dean (when sheep wander around grazing on open land). The council had previously attempted to issue a PSPO, which would have banned sheep from a particular area. The PSPO was fought by the Sheep Commoners Association, with its secretary Mick Holder saying: PSPOs are a disaster for our sheep and shepherds, they challenge ancient rights and could effectively bring to an end generations of sheep commoning in the Forest of Dean. Sheep ‘badgers’, the name given to sheep commoners, are generally responsible people who work…

Tying up the courts with non-crime

PSPOs have created hundreds of new criminal offences, including begging, standing in groups, even wearing head coverings. Once an order is created, these non-harmful activities then become subject to fines, police action, and courts. Magistrates are now hearing the cases of people who violated a PSPO, by doing nothing more ordinary than being found in a park, or putting a hat out to beg. This includes one lady in Exeter: Maria Johnson, Age: 51. On 22/01/2018 at Cathedral Green, Exeter, without reasonable excuse, refused to leave the dispersal area as requested in the relevant time which you were prohibited from doing by a…

Councils backtrack on criminalising homeless

In the wake of the government’s new statutory guidance (which stated that PSPOs should not be used to target the homeless), several councils have abandoned plans to fine people for rough sleeping. Many of these councils were also responding to opposition from members of the public, and lively debates within council chambers. Tunbridge Wells decided against fining people for sleeping in shop doorways. Dacorum Council has backtracked on plans to fine people for rough sleeping in Hemel Hempstead, after considering the new Home Office guidance. Windsor Council u-turned on plans to ban homeless people in the run-up to the royal wedding, after…