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…

Statutory Guidance on PSPOs: A campaigner’s guide

After campaigning from the Manifesto Club and others, the Home Office has released new Statutory Guidance covering the use of anti-social behaviour powers, including Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) and Community Protection Notices (CPNs). We still believe that these powers are inherently flawed and should be scrapped altogether. This Guidance is not perfect and could have gone further, but nonetheless it makes several important changes, and could significantly limit the abuse of these new powers. Here are the significant new elements to the Statutory Guidance, below:   PUBLIC SPACES PROTECTION ORDERS GUIDANCE 1. The Guidance states that PSPOs should target the activity causing…

PSPOs: latest petitions

Every week there are new PSPOs, and every week there are new public petitions against them. Here is a selection of the latest live petitions:   STOP DOG BEACH BAN, INSTOW, NORTH DEVON – a petition against North Devon Council’s plan to ban dogs from this dog-friendly beach. STOP DONCASTER’S ‘LAW AGAINST EVERYTHING’ – a petition against Doncaster Council’s plan to ban everything from busking to rough sleeping, even ‘standing around’ in the city centre STOP THE PERSECUTION OF UK DOG OWNERS – REPEAL PSPOs AGAINST OUR DOGS – A petition opposing the increasing use of PSPOs to squeeze dog walkers out…

Doncaster bans ‘standing around’ in the town centre

Doncaster is consulting on a vague, meaningless and potentially very repressive PSPO. It would target buskers and homeless people, charity collectors, as well as anyone who chooses to ‘stand around’ in the town centre. See the council’s consultation here. Sign a petition against the order here. The prohibitions are below. Each of these prohibitions would be a criminal offence, punished by a 100 pound fine or prosecution: ‘Requesting money, donations or goods, including through placing of hats, clothing or containers’ – This would prohibit all busking, as well as begging, and charity collecting of all kinds. ‘Returning to the Town Centre within…

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…

LGA Guidance on PSPOs: a campaigner’s guide

The Local Government Association has produced guidance on Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs), which may be useful to those seeking to oppose PSPOs locally or nationally. The guidance is non-statutory, and so councils are free to ignore it. But the guidance has advisory authority, and could be invoked by those seeking to oppose PSPOs in their area. It shows that there is some concern in councils and local authorities about the over-use of these powers, and efforts to direct them towards more reasonable uses. Some of the salient points in the guidance are below: 1. The LGA guidance suggests that PSPOs should target actually…

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PSPOs – Rise and Rise of the ‘Busybodies’ Charter’

Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) are unprecedently open-ended powers, which allow a single council official to ban activities in public spaces. For an official to make a PSPO, he or she need only believe that a certain activity has a ‘detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality’. The phrase ‘detrimental effect on the quality of life’ is a broad and vague definition, which has no legal precedent. There is no requirement for the official to consult the public, or to have the order reviewed by democratically elected councillors. The powers were introduced in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, and went live in October…

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…

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CPNs: The Anarchy of Arbitrary Power

Summary This report analyses local authorities’ use of the Community Protection Notice power in the year between November 2015 and October 2016, following on from our previous report on the use of the power in its first year. Our FOI requests to all English and Welsh councils with powers to issue CPNs, found that between November 2015 and October 2016, 4376 Community Protection Notices were issued. These orders have been used to impose highly unreasonable restrictions upon individuals, such as that they must not swear, they must not have any visitors to their home, or that they may not drink alcohol in their home. Homeless people have received orders…

Councils duck the questions raised about Kingdom Security

On 15 May, Panorama’s programme Inside the Litter Police exposed the shady and dubious dealings of the private litter police, who are paid per fine issued. These included: evidence that these wardens are paid a bonus according to volume of fines, and this bonus can reach £1000 a month; evidence that wardens pretend to call the police; images of wardens saying they will hand out fines ‘like Smarties’. These practices have been suspected for some years, but this is the first definitive video evidence, and so is very significant. One might have thought that councils would be shocked by the programme and reconsider their contracts with the…