Councils have brought in a series of PSPOs since our March briefing.
Some of these orders target activities that are already crimes – such as urinating and defecating in public – which is likely to be an issue of being able to punish with spot-fines rather than court.
Others include specific activities – remote control cars, skateboarding – regardless of whether these are causing a problem.
And then there are new vague pseudo-crimes – ‘loitering…so as to cause ASB’: what does that mean? – or causing harrassment, alarm and distress. It is trouble enough when such vague terms are brought before the courts. Yet in most councils these will be punished by on-spot fines, perhaps issued by private security guards (who are already employed in some of these council areas).
The idea that a private security guard or council official can punish such a subjective, catch-all offence is extremely concerning.
The new PSPOs include :
Chester and Chester West are planning to introduce an order stating that no person ‘would be allowed to lie down or sleep in any public space’. The order would also restrict busking, allowing it only in designated pitches to ‘approved buskers’ who had undergone a council audition. Finally, the order would restrict: Taking ‘legal highs’ or alcohol in public; No begging ‘including the placing of hats or containers’; Feeding any bird. See local news reports on the issue. The council is about to begin a three-month consultation.
Stoke-on-Trent police are seeking a ban on ‘large gatherings’ in carparks, targeted at car cruisers. See a local news report.
Hackney Council has brought in a PSPO prohibiting: ‘being in possession of an open container of, or consuming alcohol’ (outside of licensed premises); ‘begging or gathering alms’; rough sleeping; ‘loitering…so as to cause anti-social behaviour and harrassment, alarm or distress’; ‘misuse of public toilets’; ‘urinating or defecating’. The full order is on p24 of this council magazine. (After public protest against the order, this order has now been withdrawn.)
Hillingdon Council has passed an order covering a carpark, restricting activities including: ‘using skateboards, pedal cycles, roller skates, roller blades’; ‘gathering in groups of two or more persons unless going to or from a parked vehicle or waiting for a scheduled bus at a designated bus stop’. See the text of the order here
Hillingdon council has also passed a broader PSPO banning activities including: spitting; failing to leave a park at closing time; feeding the pigeons; using remote controlled cars; walking more than four dogs at a time; having a dog off leads on a pavement by a road. See a news report here.
Birmingham City Council is consulting on a PSPO banning ‘the use of amplification in the restricted area by Buskers, Street Entertainers and Street Speakers’. Respond to the consultation here.
Bassetlaw District Council is proposing a PSPO banning ‘shouting, swearing or acting in a manner as to cause annoyance, harassment, alarm or distress to any person’; and ‘under 16 year olds (who are not under the effective control of a parent or are responsible person aged 18 or over ) gathering in groups of three or more’. This would make it a criminal offence for three 15 year-olds to stand in a group in the area, without a parent or guardian being present. See the order.
Two councils are planning to use PSPOs to create new dog offences. Daventry would make it a crime for a dog walker to not be in possession of a ‘means to pick up’ dog mess; while Barking would make it obligatory for all dog owners to register on a DNA database. Warrington is also planning to set up a dog DNA database.
Ashfield is planning an order banning activities including: dogs on leads in all parks and open spaces; prohibiting on public drinking; ‘to fail to produce when requested a receptacle for picking up dog faeces’. The council is consulting until 17 July.
Salford Council is proposing a PSPO banning: ‘unauthorised water activities in any of the quays, basins or canal’; ‘jumping off any bridges’; ‘No causing general disturbance including being abusive to other persons, using foul language, being rowdy and inconsiderate.’ These restrictions – targeted at young people gathering and swimming in the area – will make it a crime to swim, as well as creating new offences of ‘using foul language’ and ‘being rowdy’. See local news coverage; respond to the consultation.
Shepway – the council has just passed a PSPO banning ‘drinking alcohol’, ‘legal highs’, ‘begging’ and ‘sleeping’. These restrictions will be announced on signs around town. See the text of the order.
Lambeth – the council is planning a ban on ‘legal highs’. The order would state that ‘persons must not’: ‘Ingest, inhale, inject, smoke, possess or otherwise use intoxicating substances.’ Intoxicating substances are defined as ‘Substances with the capacity to stimulate or depress the central nervous system’. See the public consultation.