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…

The absurdities of Richmond Council’s new PSPO

Richmond Council has created one of the longest and strangest PSPOs that we have seen, with no fewer than 35 clauses criminalising everything from rough sleeping to children using tricycles in the playground. It would be a crime to pick up a pebble, or to have your dog cause ‘annoyance’ to another dog or animal. The PSPO also criminalises people using parks for fitness training, and any behaviour that could be described as ‘sexually explicit’. This shows the dangers of these blank-cheque powers: new laws seem to have been drafted on the back of an envelope, picked almost at random. The result is a…

Thousand pound fine for begging on the streets of Kettering

Kettering Council has prosecuted 10 people for breaching its Public Spaces Protection Order. The order in question is incredibly wide-ranging, banning activities including: unauthorised charity collection, begging, under-18s out between 11pm-6am, loitering, distributing leaflets, skateboards, alcohol, and swearing.   The Council announced its 10 prosecutions with gung-ho glee,saying “The PSPO gives powers of enforcement to allow us to tackle issues that are particularly relevant to Kettering town centre. The CBOs (Criminal Behaviour Orders) issued will help prevent this behaviour with the threat of a prison sentence for reoffenders.” The 10 individuals were prosecuted either for public drinking or for begging, for which they…

‘Hand delivery not allowed’

(Guest post by Rupert Lipton) There is a new trend of public organisations refusing to accept documents, applications, correspondence etc. delivered by hand. I have now experienced this three times and it certainly makes my blood boil and seems a wholly inappropriate policy for any public organisation. The first occasion was when trying to deliver a Private Hire Drivers Licence application to Transport for London’s office in Blackfriars Road a few years ago. I wanted to be sure that the application was received, not trusting it to the post and of course, as a private hire driver what could be more obvious that…

My Aunt and her form-filling local authority carers

(A guest post by Tracey Logan) I recently had responsibility for organising the care of an elderly aunt with dementia. It shocked me how much time was spent by visiting local authority carers –  none of whom knew my aunt – writing notes about her mood and demeanour, and leaving them in a folder on the sideboard that nobody ever looked at. When my aunt eventually went into extra-care sheltered housing, the form-filling continued, even though there was an on-site team of carers who met daily and shared updates on residents. Each breakfast, lunch, evening meal and intervening visit would be recorded…

Busking and Public Space in the Busybody State

(A guest post by Jack Lowe) Last month, Havering Council announced their proposals for a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in Romford town centre. If their plans go ahead, busking with an amplifier, or anywhere apart from locations designated by the council, would be a criminal offence punishable by a £100 Fixed Penalty Notice or a fine of up to £1000 if taken to court. What might seem like an exceptionally draconian response to performing in public space is an increasingly familiar story in towns and cities across the UK. Not only has busking been regularly included in plans for PSPOs, but…