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…

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…

Swindon PSPO leads to ‘thousands’ stopped

We are often asked how PSPOs are enforced, in terms of the numbers stopped, fined, and prosecuted. Fines are significant but relatively low, as are prosecutions. The main use of PSPOs, we have suspected, is for behaviour policing – telling people to move on or stop what they are doing. These incidents are often not recorded, so we’ll never know how many young people were stopped from skateboarding, or how many homeless people were moved out of town. An article in Swindon’s local paper says that ‘thousands’ of people have been told that they were contravening the town’s PSPO, which includes bans…

Poole councillors rebel over homeless ban

Labour and Lib Dem councillors have called in a Tory PSPO targeting the homeless. The order – which bans begging, rough sleeping in doorways before midnight- was passed by an unelected officer. A Lib Dem councillor said that he was ‘appalled’ that the decision had been made ‘behind closed doors’. Councillors also noted that the PSPO contradicted new Home Office guidance, which states that orders should not target rough sleeping. Now it has transpired that the PSPO even went against the results of the public consultation, which the council had failed to publish. 59% had said that they disagreed with a ban on rough…

The End of ‘Bubble Matches’ – Possibly

We may have witnessed the last ‘Bubble’ match in British football, and if so, not before time. There was just one in 2017, the 23 August derby between Blackburn Rovers and Burnley. The Manifesto Club has had a campaign to end this iniquitous system of policing football fans for five years since our initial report in April 2012, ‘Criminalising Football Fans: The Case Against Bubble Matches’. Football fans travelling to away matches under bubble conditions have had severe restrictions placed upon their method of travel, and the time they would have to go to the football ground and leave it. Fans could…

Against the abortion clinic PSPOs

Ealing and Portsmouth councils are planning to use Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) to ban anti-abortion protests outside abortion clinics. Ealing has approved the plan, and will start consulting at the end of January. It certainly appears that some of these protesters are guilty of harassment, with acts including blocking people’s paths, trespassing on clinic property, filming women entering the clinic, and displaying offensive imagery. However, this does not mean that PSPOs should be used to create ‘buffer zones’, which would criminalise protests or gatherings per se within a certain distance of the clinic. The proposed PSPOs would create a sort of ‘no-protest…

Canterbury’s dog mess debacle: the crime of ‘not carrying two bags’

(Guest post by Jack Lowe.) Earlier this month, Canterbury City Council announced new measures in their attempt to kerb the problem of dog fouling. The introduction of a district-wide Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), coming into effect from early October, not only promises £80 fixed penalty notices for dog walkers who fail to pick up after their dog, but also for owners who fail to ‘demonstrate they have the appropriate means to clean up’. The definition of ‘appropriate means’ turns out to be remarkably specific: As a rule of thumb, our enforcement officers would expect responsible dog owners to carry at least two…