Tying up the courts with non-crime

PSPOs have created hundreds of new criminal offences, including begging, standing in groups, even wearing head coverings.

Once an order is created, these non-harmful activities then become subject to fines, police action, and courts.

Magistrates are now hearing the cases of people who violated a PSPO, by doing nothing more ordinary than being found in a park, or putting a hat out to beg.

This includes one lady in Exeter:

Maria Johnson, Age: 51. On 22/01/2018 at Cathedral Green, Exeter, without reasonable excuse, refused to leave the dispersal area as requested in the relevant time which you were prohibited from doing by a public spaces protection order. Plea: Guilty.

Maria was fined 130 pounds, more than the man after her in court, who was found guilty of ‘two offences of assaulting a female by beating her’ including head butting.

We are losing the distinction between criminal and non-criminal activity. A woman is fined for the mere offence of refusing to leave a green: we are losing the distinction between head butting, and refusing to leave a green. The acts are punished equally, as the violation of an official order, without considering the degree of harm caused.

Meanwhile, Coventry City Council says that in the past year it has fined 28 people for begging, and one for busking; eight of these were subsequently taken to court for violation of the orders.

Two people appeared before Burnley Magistrates, after violating the PSPO banning begging. One was detained by the court, in lieu of payment. The barrister defending said that neither was aggressive or had made demands of members of the public.