Newcastle and Sunderland – the crackdown on the homeless continues

Two particularly objectionable PSPOs are currently out for consultation. Newcastle Council seeks to create a series of wide-ranging new crimes. There is a ban on ‘aggressive begging’ – a commonly used but questionable phrase, since begging is not a naturally aggressive act. When spelled out in practice in other PSPOs, ‘aggressive begging’ is defined as when members of the public feel pressured or obliged to give money, such as in cases as when the beggar is sitting near a cash machine. Yet the PSPO goes much further than this already problematic definition: it also prohibits anyone to ‘have in their possession any item for holding,…

Free running is not a sport, not a crime

Horsham Council has banned free running in its town centre, meaning that people could be fined or prosecuted for such activities as jumping over bollards or vaulting walls. The cabinet member for community and wellbeing said that free running counted among the ‘anti-social’ acts that were an ‘issue for the local community’. Yet free running (or parkour) is presumably being practiced by some members of the local community. It is a recognised sport and art form, coming with a high degree of self-discipline and a particular way of viewing the urban space. A Horsham 17-year-old free runner said that they had ‘utmost respect for…

Protecting the public from cyclists?

(This is a guest post by Duncan Dollimore from the Cycling UK). As of 1 August cyclists could be fined for riding through that Mansfield town centre under new powers given to Councils to make Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs). PSPOs were introduced over two years ago under the Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014, to enable councils to prohibit certain types of subversive behaviour within a geographically defined area. Regrettably, some councils have used PSPOs as a geographically defined version of an ASBO to restrict the use of public space and criminalise behaviour not normally regarded as illegal. Such heinous activities include three…

Blaby Council – don’t ban young people from standing in groups!

Blaby District Council is planning an order banning 10 to 17 year olds from standing in groups of four or more. See news coverage of the order; see the consultation. The PSPO would cover the whole of the village of Countesthorpe, including the high street, cricket club and village hall, except for parks (see PSPO zones). The council has exempted the local school from the ban on young people standing in groups, realising that this may make school life somewhat difficult. However, it would still be a criminal offence for a group of young people to congregate at any time in the…

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…