Why shouldn’t people sunbathe?

Brockwell Park in London was closed after what Lambeth council called ‘unacceptable behaviour’ by residents at the weekend. The problem, said the council, was ‘sunbathing’, which went against the ‘clear advice’ from the government about the ‘essential reasons’ for which you may leave your home. The sunbathers came in for much flack on social media, where they were called ‘selfish idiots’ (and worse), who are risking lives and killing others. Sunbathers in #BrockwellPark about to get catch! Exercise🏃🏾‍♂️🏃🏾‍♀️🏋️‍♀️🚴🏻‍♀️ or #StayHomeSaveLives #Lambeth #Brixton pic.twitter.com/W8aZvUNAm7 — Juanne Fuller (@SouthActonGirl) April 4, 2020 But really? As one tweeter pointed out, the 3000 people in Brockwell…

Police should not be allowed to suspend quality of life

There are a worrying number of examples of the police going out of their way to impose needless restrictions upon people, under the guise of the Coronavirus threat. These include – – One man on Facebook reported that police were shouting with megaphones at a couple sitting on a park bench, telling them to move on. They were allowed to walk or run in the park, apparently, but not sit. – Footage of police ordering people off Shepherd’s Bush Green, where they had been lying in scattered pairs or family groups, saying ‘it’s not a holiday, it’s a lockdown’. – Derbyshire Police…

Defending basic rights in lock-down Germany

Guest post by Sabine Beppler, Berlin. The German historian Dr René Schlott has launched an initiative called ‘Grundgesetz a casa’ (constitution at home). He writes: Many of our basic rights as citizens have been severely restricted, and it is frightening to see how fast we can get used to this. Though forced to stay at home, he calls on people to defend their basic rights. ‘Grundgesetz a casa’ hopes that as many people as possible will join the campaign. They can do this by reading out an article from the German constitution (Basic Law), explaining why it must be defended. People who don’t…

State power still needs to be checked in a lockdown

Today we are living with extraordinary restrictions on our liberties. Ordinary freedoms, such as going for a walk in a park or meeting a friend, are no longer possible. The Coronavirus Bill going through parliament gives state agents unprecedented powers to detain and confine individuals, and to prohibit public events and gatherings. Of course, we are facing an urgent public health situation and this means that things cannot carry on as before. And yet it is more imperative than ever that state power and restrictions are targeted, necessary, open to public scrutiny, and not employed for a minute longer than necessary. Because…

The misuse of dispersal powers against football fans

(Guest blog post by Peter Lloyd). The police have been in trouble before for blocking ‘away’ football fans who are simply going to a match to support their team. In 2010 Greater Manchester Police paid £200,000 to around 80 Stoke City supporters who were incorrectly prevented from going to a game in Manchester and falsely imprisoned by containment, and then escorted out of the city and back to Stoke. Rules were supposedly changed to prevent this happening again but it looks like the problem has not gone away. Three years ago Wrexham fans successfully sued Humberside Police in a similar case. So furious…

Why we need informal events

(A guest post by James Woudhuysen). Why are music festivals now so popular? Where are they headed? Music festivals are part of a wider trend for people to find value in live entertainments that are not mass-produced or tightly structured like a Premier League match or a stadium concert. Today’s popular quest for authenticity bodes well for such informal events. In balloon launches or a pop-up Japanese cultural festival in Leeds, people now gain not just recreation or relief from the virtual world of screens, but also a real and tangible chance to find meaning and social solidarity. Yet informal events face…

The red tape that stopped me from volunteering to sit with the dying

(A guest post by Linda Hughes) Every now and then, the whole country is seized with a moral panic. Common sense and logic fly out of the window. Following the Soham murders of two 10-year olds in 2002, paedophile school caretaker Ian Huntley was found guilty of their murders and jailed for 40 years. The tabloid press went to town. In the prevailing climate of moral panic, the government asked civil servant Michael Bichard to report and make recommendations about child protection. Bichard recommended the setting up of the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). The Bichard Report was published on 22 June 2004 and made…

PSPOs and the ‘Preventative State’

(A guest post by Dr Ben Stanford, Coventry University). In the 2019 Reith Lectures, former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption described what he perceived as the law’s expanding empire into every corner of our lives. Whilst some of the law’s intervention is forced upon us, Sumption argues that two of the reasons for its expansion are down to collective choices – the growing moral and social pressures to produce conformity but also the constant quest for greater security and to reduce risk in our daily lives. Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs), introduced by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, are…

How PSPOs are a threat to busking

(A guest post by Chester Bingley, head of Keep Streets Live Campaign.) The rather Orwellian-sounding Public Spaces Protection Order forms part of the 2014 Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act. Introduced by Theresa May during her time as Home Secretary, the aim of the Act was to streamline and speed up the process of dealing with antisocial behaviour and, in the words of the White Paper that proposed it “to challenge dangerous and yobbish behaviour of those who make victims’ lives a misery“. One of the frightening things about the PSPO is that Local Authorities are effectively handed a book of blank…

The idiocy of prison smoking bans – report from the Isle of Man

A guest post by Stuart Hartill: Filming has finished for a TV series (as yet un-named) about life in the Isle of Man prison, due to be screened later this year. It’s the latest PR stunt for a jail which in 2008 proudly announced itself as the first smoke-free prison in Europe. But despite numerous uncritical UK press articles at the time, that wasn’t strictly true. This became obvious in 2011, when a long overdue HM Inspectorate of Prisons visit finally happened. In one press report, for example, Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons said: Many prisoners appeared to be intensively and…

The problems that remain with Nottingham’s PSPO

So far as we know, Nottingham City Council last night rubber stamped a PSPO regulating busking, begging, leafleting, and other activities in the city centre. After fierce opposition and criticism (including from the Manifesto Club, Keep Streets Live and the Musicians’ Union), the council reduced some of the conditions. These changes include – – A removal of the requirement to gain consent before handing out religious, charitable or political leaflets; – A removal of the requirement to busk in designated busking sites. Instead, busking is banned in two small areas, including next to the town hall. Yet significant problems remain with the…