This is the Manifesto Club response to the draft Newport PSPO.
1. No person shall within the restricted area refuse to stop drinking alcohol or hand over any containers (sealed or unsealed) which are believed to contain alcohol, when required to do so by an authorised officer to prevent public nuisance or disorder.
Manifesto Club response: The power of alcohol confiscation is an unnecessarily broad and open-ended power, which means that alcohol can be confiscated from people who are not actually doing anything wrong. When these powers have been introduced in other places, they have been used disproportionately to target homeless people – who after all have no choice except to drink in a public place (they cannot drink at home or in licensed premises). If street drinkers are committing offences then there are existing criminal laws that can be used to target the problem. If they are doing nothing wrong (in spite of what a council officer may think they may do later), then they should be left to go about their lawful activity. Such open-ended powers cannot but lead to unequal and punitive treatment of particular individuals.
2. A person is prohibited from congregating in a group of three or more persons within the restricted area after an authorised person has requested that the group disperse – this allows for individuals to stand in groups if they are not causing trouble and have not been asked to disperse.
Manifesto Club response: This measure will give council officers a blank-cheque power to disperse people whenever they see fit. There are already grave problems with the police use of dispersal powers, which are being used widely against groups including the homeless and political protesters. It is a serious matter to restrict a person’s freedom of movement. The extension of blanket dispersal powers to council officers is very concerning indeed. If somebody is committing a public order offence they should be prosecuted for it; if they are not, they should be left alone. (How very generous of you to allow people to stand in groups in cases where you have not decided to invoke your dispersal powers!)
3. A person is prohibited from having in their possession, selling or supplying any intoxicating substance namely any substance with the capacity to stimulate or depress the central nervous system but not including alcohol, tobacco or vaporisers; a person is required to surrender any such intoxicating substance in their possession when asked to do so by an authorised officer in the restricted area. A person does not commit an offence under this Order where the said substance is used for a valid medicinal use.
Manifesto Club response: The prohibition on ‘intoxicating substances’ is extremely broad and vague. Your draft order fails to except foodstuffs, which means that you would in effect ban the sale and consumption of tea and coffee in the restricted area (these substances have a significant capacity to stimulate the central nervous system).