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 received fines of up to 1000 pounds. Upon prosecution, they have received Criminal Behaviour Orders preventing them from drinking or begging in future. If they ‘reoffend’, they could be imprisoned.
Let’s consider this: these are people drinking alcohol or begging. They did not attack anyone; they were not prosecuted for being disorderly or breaching the peace. They were prosecuted for sitting in a public place and sipping from a can of beer, with a hat at their feet. Neither of these things, in themselves, cause public harm. They were not hurting anyone. This is out of proportion.
And now they have CBOs, which means that they could be imprisoned for sitting in public with a hat at their feet.
The council and police have lost the plot. They should be using public resources – and the power of coercion – to target those who have actually committed some public harm. Not for those who dared to take a sip of beer one afternoon while on a bench in Kettering town centre.
Kettering’s Green Party have been opposing the order and sent me the statement below:
Kettering Green Party’s vehement opposition the the PSPO, is not just about skateboarding, but about curfews, fines and hiding away those seen as ‘undesirable’ under these draconian measures. Our objections are threefold:
1. Most justified aspects of the Order are already written into law; all the PSPO serves to do is blur the lines that surround those laws with poorly worded statements.
2. It leaves some of the most vulnerable in our society open to criminal charges, rather than the help and support they need.
3. The issues causing some of these ‘anti social’ behaviours are simply moved on. Homelessness is seen not as something to address, but something to be hidden; young people are seen not as full of potential, but as an inconvenience, told where and when they are allowed to be a part of the community.