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…

Gloucester Council’s ban on begging, charity collection, and unattended belongings

Gloucester City Council is planning a PSPO which would ban begging, assertive charity collection, and give council officers the power to remove homeless people’s unattended belongings. The consultation is available here (open until 2 April). Here below is our response to the consultation. Dear Gloucester City Council We have severe concerns about elements of your draft PSPO, which we believe are illiberal, unnecessary, and in violation of the new government statutory guidance governing this area. There is a requirement in the new statutory guidance that the ‘councils should ensure that the Order is appropriately worded so that it targets the specific behaviour…

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…

PSPOs: Latest news

Here is the latest news on the implementation and enforcement of PSPOs. This shows that councils are continuing to pass and enforce unreasonable PSPOs, in spite of the new Statutory Guidance.   Runnymede Borough Council plans to ban standing in groups that causes ‘annoyance’, and face coverings ‘in an attempt to conceal identity’. You can respond to the consultation here. Ealing Council is seeking to ban anti-abortion protests outside an abortion clinic. The consultation starts here at the end of January Elmbridge Borough Council has banned ‘rowdy and inconsiderate behaviour’. See a news story here. A man in Retford was convicted and…

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…

Dozens of council orders now illegal under new government guidance

The Home Office has published new Statutory Guidance governing Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs), a power that has been used to ban a wide range of public activities, including ball games, rough sleeping and standing in groups. We have carried out FOI surveys into the use of the PSPO power in the period up until June 2017 (this data is available in one report published in February 2016, and another in July 2017). Using this data, we estimate that around a fifth of existing PSPOs are explicitly prohibited, or strongly advised against, by the new guidance. The important change is that the new…