‘Helping’ the homeless by fining them

The new Home Office Statutory Guidance included a restriction on councils using PSPOs to target the homeless. Some councils have heeded this, and withdrawn or modified PSPOs that affect homeless people. But others seem to have taken another approach: they introduce a PSPO banning begging or rough sleeping, but insist that they are only doing it to help and support homeless people. Doncaster Council has brought though a PSPO that bans sleeping overnight in  the town centre, begging, lying or sitting in or adjacent to doorways. This amounts to an outright ban on homelessness, yet the council insists that it is doing…

It is terrifying that the police can now make the law

In theory, a PSPO is a power used by councils, on the basis that they are democratically elected institutions. Before passing the PSPO, the council must consult the local police force, in order to check that they are able to enforce it. The reality, however, is that police forces are becoming actively involved in the writing of these laws. In Cheshire West and Chester, a PSPO (which included a ban on rough sleeping, begging, and busking outside of designated pitches) was proposed in a report by a local chief inspector. Police influence is the reason for the frequent appearance of a dispersal…

The myth of ‘aggressive begging’

‘Aggressive begging’ has been the target of a series of PSPOs (either the PSPO bans aggressive begging, or aggressive begging is used as the justification for a ban on begging as a whole). But what exactly is ‘aggressive begging’? The Oxford Council PSPO defines aggressive begging as including ‘begging near a cash machine’. Exeter Council includes in its definition behaviour that is ‘intimidating by being passive aggressive, such as standing or sitting in close proximity (ie within 5 meters to a cash machine’. Newport Council’s PSPO extends the range even further, defining aggressive begging as begging within 10 metres of a cashpoint.…

Dog owners to be searched and scanned

Two current consultations – in Hartlepool and Blackpool – propose interfering and controlling PSPOs that are directed at dog owners. Both draft PSPOs extend the areas within which dog owners cannot walk their dogs, or must walk their dogs on a lead. In addition, both include a requirement for dog owners to produce a ‘means to pick up’ dog mess on request. If they refuse to do so, they will be fined. Both PSPOs also include a power for council owners to scan dog microchips – to obtain certain identity for the owner, and also to issue a fine if the dog…

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…

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…