Teignbridge Council bans rough sleeping and swearing

Teignbridge Council’s executive committee has passed a new PSPO, targeting the seaside town of Dawlish. The PSPO bans a wide range of activities including: sleeping after the hours of darkness, shouting or swearing, and the consumption of legal highs and alcohol. The council claims there have been some crimes in the area (including criminal damage and drug use), but there are already laws against these. The main complaint seems to be that a group of street drinkers are hanging out and messing up a pretty seaside town. The council was keen to have the order in place by the summer: ‘Failure to have this…

All supporting actors need criminal check

All walk-on and supporting actors for the main TV companies now require a basic criminal records check. They need this for any production on which an under-18 will be on set, at any point and for any length of time. (A 17-year old on the set for a few minutes will require everyone in the whole production to be checked. The whole production will need to be checked if there is a chance that an under-18 might at some point contribute ‘as a result of last-minute changes to the schedule’.) The actor will have to pay the £25 check fee themselves and give the certificate…

Hackney: history of the defeat of a PSPO

A guest post by Samir Jeraj, outlining the progress of events in the London borough of Hackney, where a PSPO banning homelessness was successfully overturned by residents. Soon after the May 2015 elections, our local newspaper The Hackney Citizen published a warning from Crisis, a national homelessness charity. Their Chief Executive, Jon Sparkes, was warning that a new ‘Public Space Protection Order’ from Hackney Council would criminalise homeless people. Sophie Linden, the Councillor in charge of the PSPO, said: ‘The level of street drinking, persistent rough sleeping and the associated anti-social behaviour in the area reached the point that we had to…

PSPO for Coventry park criminalises standing in groups

Coventry City Council is planning a PSPO for a public park, which will prohibit ‘congregation of groups of 2 or more persons in the Designated Area where the behaviour of some or all members of the group has or is likely to have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the community’. This incredibly broad PSPO is being planned in a park where there appear to be very serious problems – allegations of drug dealing, assault, even the procurement of under-age children for sex. Yet rather than focus on the individuals committing these very serious offences, the council…

Vetting for school governors made a legal obligation

I have just received an email from a school governor: “I’m a Chair of Governors of a primary school and have been made aware of a new statutory instrument that was laid before Parliament last week, which mandates that all governors of maintained schools have an enhanced criminal records check, regardless of whether they’re undertaking regulated activity or not. Up until now, the decision as to whether to check all governors was down to the LA or body in question, and we did not routinely vet new governors. Despite being known to the school for over a decade, I will be required to…

Oxford Council takes its character-robbing PSPOs down to the river

Oxford City Council is continuing its campaign to squeeze spontaneous social life and character out of the city with a new PSPO, this time targeting the city’s waterways. The order will prohibit mooring without permission of the landowner, storing items on the bank without permission of the landowner, smoke or noise pollution which causes annoyance to others; it will also give council officers powers to confiscate alcohol and to order people to put their dogs on leads. In its evidence, the council cited the 95 reported crimes that had occurred on the waterways in 19 months, including arson, burglary from boathouses, assault, drug dealing,…

Council bans the wearing of face coverings

Sefton Council in Liverpool has brought through a PSPO banning head or face coverings. Religious headwear is exempt from the restriction, but there are no allowances for the myriad reasons people may want to cover their heads – rain, for example, or cold. The order reads: ‘The head and face are not to be covered by hoods or any other face coverings save for specific items of personal clothing which reflect the individual’s cultural values’. The aim of the order, apparently, is to deal with gun and gang violence in the area. Yet the order did not prohibit gun or gang violence, since these are…

Why Oxford City Council won’t take ‘no’ for an answer

Earlier this year Oxford City Council proposed a public spaces protection order banning a swathe of activities in the city centre – rough sleeping, feeding the pigeons, sleeping in public toilets, unlicensed busking, begging, and more. The plan was met with a student petition that gained over 70,000 signatures, as well as protests from civil liberty groups such as the Manifesto Club and Liberty, buskers Keep Streets Live, and homeless organisations such as Crisis. There was also firm opposition from Green and Liberal Democrat members of the council. The council’s public consultation showed that a clear majority were against the criminalisation of…

Brighton Council – why on earth would you ban smoking on the beach?

Brighton Council is proposing to ban smoking on the beach. Brighton and Hove beaches is a long, windswept stretch, running for several miles. For most of the year, most of this large area has only a handful of people on it. Anyone smoking in this area would not only not affect others, they probably could not even be seen by them. The council’s director of public health said that ‘in certain weather conditions’ smoking on the beach could cause harm to others. One wonders what weather conditions he is thinking about. Most of the time, the prevailing weather condition is a stiff…

Campaigners told to get insurance to hand out leaflets in Woking

The Manifesto Club is supporting members of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, who have been prevented from handing out leaflets in Woking Town Centre. They were told that they must gain prior approval from the council, and submit the leaflets they wish to distribute. They were also told that they must get public liability insurance before distributing leaflets. Both of these requests are based on the council’s Public Realm Usage Policy. Both are also entirely unjustified, and have no legal basis. Members of the group wrote a letter to Woking News, outlining their position (see the letter here). We wrote a letter to…

Oxford Council: don’t criminalise begging/busking tonight!

As things stand, it is likely that Oxford Council will tonight enact a PSPO (public spaces protection order), creating a series of new criminal offences in the city centre. The new offences include : A new crime of ‘non-compliant busking’. This means that a busker playing in the wrong spot or for longer than an hour would be committing a criminal offence: they could receive an £100 on-the-spot fine, or £1000 fine on conviction. It will be a crime to beg ‘on more than one occasion’ in the city centre. This means that homeless people in Oxford will be committing an offence if…

Birmingham to ban microphones in the city centre

If this PSPO goes though it will be a crime to protest with megaphones in Birmingham city centre. It will also be a crime to play violin, acoustic guitar or flute with amplification. That is, the city centre – including the law courts, police station, and council house – will be an area within which amplification of all kinds is prohibited. The council says it has been ‘inundated’ with complaints about noise: I would like to know how many complaints they have received. What’s more likely is that such measures represent the official view that any spontaneous expressions of life in public…