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TOPIC: Council consulting on use of Public Space Protection Orders

Council consulting on use of Public Space Protection Orders 02 Nov 2016 19:34 #2376

Basil Clarke Basil Clarke's Avatar Topic Author
Enfield Council is currently running a public consultation to gauge opinion about the possible introduction of one or more Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs), covering all or part of the Borough. Though anti-social behaviour is without doubt a real problem, I think that before responding we should consider whether these orders might not be too sweeping, represent a threat to civil liberties and be used to sweep social problems under the carpet rather than tackle them.



A PSPO imposes conditions on activities within the area covered by the Order. The intention is to reduce "anti-social behaviour" or "nuisances or problems in a defined area that are considered to be detrimental to the local community's quality of life". Anyone breaching the conditions commits a criminal offence which can result in a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) of up to £100, or a fine of up to £1,000 if prosecuted. The Council and the Police are authorised under the Act to enforce PSPOs.

Anti-social behaviour is an unfortunate reality in Enfield and throughout the UK and it is clearly appropriate for councils and police forces to take steps to reduce its impact on quality of life. However, civil liberties campaigners have serious reservations about the use of PSPOs. They are potentially over-broad powers which allow councils to criminalise particular, non-criminal, activities taking place within a specified area. The human rights campaign group Liberty considers that they are too widely drawn, with vague definitions of what can be criminalised, and carry disproportionately punitive sanctions. Liberty thinks that they can be used to restrict rights protected under the Human Rights Act: Article 8, the right to a private and family life, Article 10, the right to freedom of expression and Article 11, the right to protest and freedom of association.

Thoughtless imposition of restrictions on activities in public spaces can make the lives of already underprivileged people more difficult still. For instance, I get the impression that some people would like to ban a gathering of two or more people standing in the street and conversing in a foreign language. But these may be people without anywhere else to go, they may be living in a house in multiple occupation, sharing a bedroom with a complete stranger (and still spending most of their income on rent).

Some examples of activities banned by PSPOs elsewhere and thus criminalised:
  • No shouting or swearing (Guildford)
  • Ban on playing golf or possessing golf equipment (NE Derbyshire)
  • No engaging in card tricks (Blackpool)
  • No under-18s out between 11pm and 6am (Kettering)
  • No gathering in groups of two or more unless waiting for a bus. And no feeding pigeons (Hillingdon)
  • No going in a lake or encouraging or permitting any person or animal to go in (Wirral)
  • No under-16s in groups of three or more (Bassetlaw)
  • No loitering at bus stops (Caerphilly)
  • No loud speech on the Green (North Kesteven)
  • Ban on ball games (Nottingham)

There is nothing to indicate that Enfield Council is proposing to restrict such perfectly legal activities, but these examples show how broad-brush the law is.

The online consultation being run by Enfield Council asks questions about three possibilities: a borough-wide order, an order covering parks and open spaces, or an order covering council estates. Residents are invited to say what activitie they consider to be problematical and whether they would like them to be covered by a PSPO. For an all-borough order the following are suggested:
  • People being drunk or rowdy in public places
  • Aggressive begging (includes begging in a manner reasonably perceived to be intimidating or aggressive)
  • Persons sleeping or living in a public place without consent
  • Gathering of people on specified land and on specified roads in motor vehicles undertaking racing, wheel spins, driving without due care, etc. (for example, around the retail park on the A10/Great Cambridge Road during the evening)
  • Groups of people gathering and waiting to be picked up as casual labour, with the groups causing noise and other anti-social behaviour
  • Consumption, supply and use of intoxicating substances (for example, legal highs)
  • Throwing of fireworks
  • Aggressive face-to-face charity collections
  • Illegal parking around schools
  • People selling goods or seeking to provide services (for example, windscreen washing) in traffic
  • Dog fouling (dog owners not having receptacles, such as bags, and not picking up dog faeces)
  • Smoking tobacco in children's playgrounds
  • Nuisance and annoyance being caused by street performers
  • Prostitution (including, soliciting of sexual services and loitering with a view to obtaining sexual services)
  • Flying of drones (that is, remote unmanned aerial vehicles)
  • Using mopeds, go-peds, scooters and other similar transport on pavements without reasonable excuse
  • Urinating and/or defecating in public areas
  • Possessing paint/cans for graffiti and vandalism

For parks and open spaces:
  • Dog fouling (dog owners not picking up and removing dog faeces and/or not having receptacles, such as bags, to pick up their dog's mess)
  • Dogs not being on leads
  • Dogs being in areas of the park where they shouldn’t (for example, tennis courts and playgrounds)
  • Multiple dog walking (more than 4 dogs)
  • Smoking tobacco in children's playgrounds

For council estates:
  • Persons entering and loitering in council housing estate buildings/premises
  • Dog fouling (dog owners not having receptacles and removing dog faeces)
  • Dogs not being on leads
  • People being drunk or rowdy on the estate
  • Persons sleeping or living in a public place without consent
  • Feeding of pigeons
  • Vehicles being repaired on housing estate land (Not emergency repairs)
  • Vehicles being sold on housing estate land
  • Abandoned and untaxed vehicles
  • Use of mini motos and similar motorised scooters/bikes
  • Smoking tobacco in children's playgrounds

The consultation can be found at www.enfield.gov.uk/info/867/current_consultations/3968/using_a_public_spaces_protection_order_pspo_to_deal_with_anti-social_behaviour_in_public . It runs until 28th November.

Liberty website: www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/campaigning/public-space-protection-orders-0

Analysis by the Big Issue - a publication which works to help people who could easily become innocent victims of PSPOs www.bigissue.com/features/6555/public-space-protection-order-the-rise-and-rise-of-the-sneakiest-law-of-modern-times

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Council consulting on use of Public Space Protection Orders 06 Nov 2016 23:13 #2387

Paul Mandel Paul Mandel's Avatar
“I get the impression that some people would like to ban a gathering of two or more people standing in the street and conversing in a foreign language” I very much think that this is not likely to be the case – an is a fear perhaps driven by “Liberty” which says “Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) are broad powers which allow councils to criminalise particular, non-criminal, activities taking place within a specified area. Unfortunately, we have frequently seen them used against the most vulnerable in our society, the homeless.”

I get a rather different impression. . PCSOs are there to deal with antisocial behaviour, which can make many people’s lives a misery. Of course, like with any other enforcement measures, they could be open to abuse by authorities. However, hopefully, there are enough checks in the rules, to ensure that this does not become widespread and if it does occur, can be resolved.

Therefore I am inclined to support the proposals. My concern is that the Council and police will not actually apply sufficient resources to properly implement the measures.

A couple years ago, the Council unveiled anti-spitting by laws, but I doubt if those are still being enforced with much rigour. This proposal will cover a much large range of petty criminal activity. The only hope, is that with a wider range of offences to enforce against, there will be more motivation for the authorities to do so, like a fisherman having a better stocked lake.

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