New anti-social behaviour powers are criminalising people merely for being in a public space.
From 20 October 2014, the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act gave police new ‘dispersal powers’ to bar individuals from public spaces if they think a person’s behaviour could cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’.
A new Manifesto Club briefing document – published on Wednesday 17 June – shows that police forces across the country are using the new dispersal powers in a pre-emptive and unjust manner.
Police forces declared dispersal zones in response to a wide variety of public gatherings, including ‘Christmas lights switch on’, ‘bonfire night’ and ‘student night’, and in response to ‘nuisance vehicles’ and ‘begging’.
Those barred from public places include : homeless people; political protesters who were chatting and ‘deciding where to go for a drink’; and football supporters who had pulled up by the side of the road in an isolated area.
A disabled man handing out food for the homeless was barred from central Brighton; he was told that he would be arrested if he re-entered the area.