Protect Civic Freedoms – Complete the Doncaster PSPO Consultation

Protect Civic Freedoms – Complete the Doncaster PSPO Consultation

Sign the petition against Doncaster’s Public Space Protection Order proposals which could see highly vulnerable people criminalised and bans on busking and even ‘being likely to cause annoyance’

Please take 10 minutes to complete this online consultation on Doncaster Council’s proposals to introduce a town centre PSPO that will affect cultural activities such as busking, criminalise highly vulnerable people and introduce nebulous new criminal offences. The Keep Streets Live Campaign has completed the online consultation and provided our answers to why we are opposing this PSPO. Please feel free to use our answers as a reference:

 

1. Requesting money, donations or goods including through placing of hats, clothing or containers.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

No comment to make

Additional comments

This prohibition would, perhaps unintentionally, have the effect of criminalising buskers who traditionally put out a hat, musical instrument case or similar to receive donations for performing music. Doncaster is well known for its vibrant cultural scene and is popular with buskers. The wording of this prohibition is too wide and should be changed so it doesn’t criminalise a grassroots cultural activity that brings vibrancy to the city centre.

Additionally this proposal criminalises vulnerable and destitute people who will have no means of paying punitive fines which will drag them into the criminal justice system. The police already have powers to target people for begging and can use their discretion to target people who use intimidation or aggressiveness rather than people who sit passively collecting with a container without causing harm to other people. Instead of introducing this general and wide-ranging prohibition the council and police should target those whose behaviour is causing specific harm to others.

2. Loitering around pay machines (including banks, supermarkets) unless waiting to legitimately use them.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

No comment to make

Additional comments?

This prohibition is too vague and wide-ranging in its scope. It allows people to be criminalised for a perceived ‘offence’ which might not occurred. A person may have a legitimate reason to be in the vicinity of a pay machine and yet fall foul of this prohibition because they are not waiting to use a machine. The prohibition creates a nebulous offence with a highly subjective element which is open to misuse and is too far-ranging.

3. Returning to the Town Centre within 24 hours after being requested to leave by an authorised officer due to them behaving in a manner causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm, distress, nuisance or annoyance.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

No comment to make

Additional comments?

Once again, the problem with this prohibition is that it brings a highly subjective element into the realm of criminal law. Causing alarm, harassment and distress to another person is already a criminal offence under existing powers which makes this prohibition unnecessary except that it also catches behaviour that causes or is likely to cause nuisance or annoyance, terms that have a very subjective element and could lead to people being banned from the town centre because in the subjective opinion of an authorised officer their behaviour was likely to cause ‘annoyance’. This is a wide-ranging power with a very low evidential threshold which is far too open to misuse.

4. Congregating in a group of three or more people and behave in a manner causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm, distress, nuisance or annoyance to any person within the Town Centre.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

No comment to make

Additional comments?

Once again this prohibition creates the potential for people to be criminalised because in the subjective opinion of an authorised officer their behaviour is seen as ‘likely’ to cause annoyance to any person. This is a nebulous prohibition which is far too open to misuse and could easily lead to a boisterous group of friends enjoying themselves being criminalised because someone found them to be likely to cause annoyance to any person even though their behaviour was not harmful in any way.

6. Ingest, inhale, inject, smoke or otherwise use intoxicating substances within the Town Centre or possess any item that can be used to assist in the taking of intoxicating substances.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Dont know

No comment to make

Additional comments?

Once again this prohibition is too wide-ranging, catch-all and scattergun in its approach, particularly the clause that makes it a criminal offence to possess ANY item that can be used to assist in the taking of intoxicating substances. There are a wide range of innocuous, everyday items that can be used to assist in the taking of intoxicating substances and this prohibition criminalises people for possessing such items even if they are in no way being used to assist in the taking of substances. Also there is an inherent evidential difficulty involved in proving whether a substance is ‘intoxicating’ without proper testing prior to giving out on the spot fines.

7. Urinating or defecating other than in public toilets.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

No comment to make

Additional comments?

8. Camping or sleeping overnight with or without a tent, or using a vehicle, caravan or any other structure in a public place.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

No comment to make

Additional comments?

OK

This prohibition targets highly vulnerable people including the homeless and the vulnerably-housed and creates an unnecessary and perverse criminal offence of ‘sleeping overnight’ in a public place. People sleep rough for a wide variety of reasons, many feel safer in the communal centre of a town than in certain hostels. It is inappropriate to create a criminal offence which has a disproportionately high impact on highly vulnerable people within the community. On the matter of tents and ‘any other structures’, once again the order is too wide ranging and potentially open to abuse to be helpful. Many people use structures or tents to take shelter from the elements and this prohibition could put vulnerable people at greater risk. This seems an entirely wrong-headed way of addressing the social complexities stemming from the rise in people who are homeless or vulnerably housed.

9. Making approaches to people with the intention of entering into any arrangements which involve people making future payments for the benefit of charity, access to credit or other purposes – unless authorised by the Council.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

 

Additional comments?

The prohibition creates a criminal offence where one does not need to exist. If the behaviour of certain fundraisers causes concerns it can be dealt with using existing powers rather than creating new criminal offence.

No comment to make

Additional comments?

The prohibition creates a criminal offence where one does not need to exist. If the behaviour of certain fundraisers causes concerns it can be dealt with using existing powers rather than creating new criminal offence.

10. Loitering, standing around, touch or interfere with any parking equipment, in the Town Centre.

This should be prohibited

This should not be prohibited

Don’t know

No comment to make

Additional comments?

This prohibition creates a nebulous offence which could effectively criminalise someone for waiting in line for a parking ticket or even standing (or loitering) near a parking machine. This prohibition creates the potential to criminalise people unintentionally and unnecessarily for innocuous reasons.

Do you have any other general comments to make?

Many of these prohibitions are too wide-ranging, poorly constructed and nebulous in effect because they often simply replicate existing powers but with a much lower evidential threshold.

These prohibitions catch behaviours that are themselves innocuous and too often target highly  vulnerable people. Of particular concern are the clauses that ban people from sleeping in the town centre with or without tents and the clause that effectively bans people from busking. The clauses that create effective banning orders for being perceived as likely to cause annoyance are very open to misuse.

The order should either be re-written in a way that makes it far less nebulous and far-reaching or else abandoned altogether.

Official KSLC response to Havering Borough Council’s proposed PSPO in Romford town centre

Official KSLC response to Havering Borough Council’s proposed PSPO in Romford town centre

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Havering Borough Council are conducting an online consultation into their plans to introduce a Public Space Protection Order in Romford town centre which would criminalise busking and make it easier to target vulnerable people for ‘seeking alms’. The Keep Streets Live Campaign is asking Havering to rethink their proposals and this is our official response to their plans.

Please take a moment to fill in the online consultation and, if you agree with our criticisms, join us in asking them to think again.

You should feel free to use some of the points we have made below as a guide when making your response. The more people that get in touch with Havering Council, the greater our chance of asking them to rethink their proposals is. Here is the link:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/2Y53GJ7

Keep Streets Live Campaign response to Havering Borough Council PSPO consultation 

I am the founder and the director of the Keep Streets Live Campaign, a not for profit organisation which exists to advocate for public spaces which are open to informal offerings of art and music and other community uses. We started the online petition, so far signed by over 1500 people, asking Havering Borough Council to rethink its PSPO proposals:

https://www.change.org/p/havering-borough-council-don-t-ban-romford-s-buskers-don-t-criminalise-the-destitute?recruiter=22155823&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_page&utm_term=mob-xs-notification-custom_msg

We are have specific concerns about the scope of the proposed PSPO, particularly as it relates to busking and also ‘begging and the seeking of alms’. Our petition specifically asks that busking and ‘begging and the seeking of alms’ be removed from the draft PSPO though we have concerns about the overall scope of the PSPO.

We share with Liberty concerns about the lack of supporting evidence used to support the proposed introduction of this PSPO which they have made publicly available in this letter:

https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/sites/default/files/Letter%20to%20Havering%20Council%20re%20PSPO%20consultation%2005.04.17.pdf

For the purposes of this online consultation we will be responding to specific parts of the proposed PSPO:

‘Busking only within areas designated by Havering Council’

The police and council already have ample powers to address issues of nuisance, obstruction or antisocial behaviour as they relate to busking making this clause unnecessary. The problem with this clause is that it would make it a criminal offence to busk outside designated areas, even if the busking was not causing any nuisance or obstruction. Busking in public spaces is a long standing British cultural tradition, and, provided that no obstruction is being caused on the highway and no nuisance is being caused, is lawful. The Live Music Act 2012 affirms that live music can be played in public places between 8am and 11pm but this proposal would make it a criminal offence to play music except for specific areas in Romford. This is a disproportionate and ‘catch-all’ attempt to address the issues that can sometimes arise from busking. It would also mean that the police and council would be diverting resources to prosecuting buskers for standing in the wrong place, even if they weren’t causing any issues. It would also mean that busking performances would concentrate in specific designated areas which could lead to an increase in complaints from those areas. We are asking Havering Borough Council to adopt a best practise guide for busking such as the one agreed between the local authority, Musician’s Union, Keep Streets Live Campaign and Equity in Liverpool, York, Birmingham, Chester, Canterbury, Worcester and elsewhere (http://keepstreetslive.com/uncategorized/2014/09/best-practice-busking-guide) to the oversight of busking in Romford. The principle of this guidance should be avoiding creating blanket, catch-all offences but concentrating resources on enforcement against those performers who are causing a genuine nuisance. The council and the police have the powers to ban specific individuals and performers from pitches where they have been shown to cause a nuisance. They should target problematic individuals rather than all buskers because otherwise they will be criminalising people and activities that are not causing any harm.

‘No busking with amplified equipment’

Clearly this clause attempts to address the issue of noise nuisance as it relates to busking by creating a catch-all criminal offence of using amplified equipment. Once again, the problem with this clause is that it criminalises all uses of amplification, even those uses which are not causing any noise nuisance without addressing the potential nuisance of unamplified instruments like drums, plastic pots, trumpets, bagpipes or saxophones etc which all have the potential to cause nuisance. Many street musicians use a battery powered amp because they are playing quieter instruments such as guitars and need to be heard just above the ambient street noise for their performances to be effective. The use of microphones enables people to sing or speak more quietly and safeguards singers against vocal damage or trauma. Criminalising the use of amplifiers will mean that many of the most accomplished or professional performers will no longer be able to perform in Romford which will have the effect of making Romford a ‘no-go’ area for buskers. Additionally the proposed blanket ban on amplification risks the criminalisation of residents who use microphones or loudspeakers as part of peaceful protests in the Romford area which is a potential interference of the right to freedom of expression under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Once We ask Havering Borough Council to drop this clause and to adopt a Best Practise Guide approach to the oversight of busking in Romford with the Musician’s Union, Equity and Keep Streets Live Campaign along the lines already agreed in cities such as Liverpool, Birmingham, York and elsewhere:

http://keepstreetslive.com/uncategorized/2014/09/best-practice-busking-guide

Rather than enforcing a general blanket ban on amplification, the police and local authority could target specific performers who have been shown to cause a nuisance. The police and local authority already have the powers needed to confiscate equipment from people causing a nuisance and to ban specific individuals from using amplified equipment. By targeting enforcement against those individuals who are generating complaints the local authority will be able to improve the quality of busking in Romford and address the issue of noise nuisance without criminalising those performers who use amplification considerately and appropriately. We ask that Havering remove this clause from the PSPO

‘No begging or seeking of alms’

Including begging in the PSPO will impact the poorest and most vulnerable members of society in a disproportionate and manifestly unjust way. The vast majority of people who beg are highly vulnerable, many suffering from complex needs, mental health and addiction issues and are often destitute and are reduced to begging in order to obtain food and shelter. The current proposal would mean that a person sat down, without causing any issues to any other person, could face a criminal record and fine of up to £1000. It is counterproductive to use public resources to impose punitive fines upon people who are very unlikely to be able to pay them and could face further marginalisation and destitution through their interaction with the court system.

The use of the phrase ‘seeking of alms’ is vague and ambiguous as well as being antiquated. It risks creating a new criminal offence without a clear understanding of what that offence entails. For example, does asking someone for food or a hot drink constitute ‘seeking of alms’? If so, are Havering Borough Council proposing to make it a criminal offence for destitute people to seek food and drink?

Begging is already illegal under the 1824 Vagrancy Act which gives the police ample powers to seek to prosecute persons for begging if it was deemed to be in the public interest. Instead of giving an enormous range of new delegated powers to council officials which could see a large number of fixed penalty notices given to people with no ability to pay them and a resultant rise in costly magistrate’s court hearings and the mixing up of vulnerable people in the criminal justice system, the council and the police should focus purely on the small minority of people who combine begging with genuinely aggressive and intimidating behaviour and use existing legislation to target those individuals rather than creating a new criminal offence. Oxford City Council amended their PSPO proposal to target ‘aggressive begging’. Whilst this is still problematic it has the advantage of targeting a specific behaviour with the potential to cause harm to others in the form of intimidation or harassment and is less open to misuse. We ask that Havering Borough Council remove the clause as it relates to begging and seeking of alms.

No unlicensed street trading or charity solicitation (chugging)’

Rather than a blanket ban on ‘charity solicitation’ the council should adopt a best practise guide which outlines expected behaviour from those working on behalf of charities and target enforcement against those individuals or groups that depart from mutually agreed standards. This clause, as it stands, could criminalise people who are acting in a responsible and considerate way which is problematic.

‘No consumption of alcohol outside of a licenced premises or designated drinking area’

This proposal could be amended to make it an offence not to surrender an alcoholic beverage when asked to by a police officer. In this way the proposal would address the issue of street drinking without criminalising vulnerable people who might be suffering from mental health/addiction problems. The current wording of the proposal means that anybody with an alcoholic drink in a public place in Romford would be committing a criminal offence which could have a damaging impact on vulnerable people.

 

Support the Keep Streets Live Campaign’s petition against the criminalisation of street culture in Romford

The Keep Streets Live Campaign has set up a new online petition against plans to criminalise buskers in Romford which you can support at this link

:

https://www.change.org/p/havering-borough-council-don-t-ban-romford-s-buskers-don-t-criminalise-the-destitute

When a video of 15 year old Alfie Sheard busking went viral in February 2017 it took him from the streets of Doncaster to the studios of Burbank, California where he was invited to play in front of millions of viewers on the Ellen Degeneres show and presented with a guitar by his hero Ed Sheeran. Under controversial new proposalswhich are now under public consultation online, from Havering Borough Council to ban all busking with any amplification in Romford and to restrict it to designated spots using a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), Alfie would have been committing a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1000.  These draconian proposals, if implemented, would turn Romford town centre into a no-go area for busking and would do immense damage to the grassroots cultural life of the town at a time when opportunities for young artists to perform and audiences to encounter live music are being greatly diminished by the closure of live venues.

Many contemporary street musicians and artists use some amplification to support outdoor musical performances. Some use quiet instruments or music technology which can’t work effectively without amplification. These include keyboards, electric violins, mandolins, guitars as well as loop pedals which are an increasingly common part of contemporary musical performances. Instead of criminalising all amplification in catch-all proposals, the local authority should target enforcement action against those performers who have caused a persistent issue with noise nuisance, whether amplified or unamplified, using their existing statutory powers such as the power to issue noise abatement notices and confiscate musical instruments under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. A blanket ban on all amplification in Romford would also potentially criminalise residents who used a loudspeaker or microphone during a peaceful protest thereby infringing their rights under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Romford’s draft Public Space Protection Order would also criminalise ‘begging and the seeking of alms’ in proposals that have come under strong criticism in a letter sent to Havering Borough Council from leading Human Rights advocacy group Liberty because of the impact these new powers will have against the most vulnerable and destitute people in Romford. Anyone caught begging or seeking ‘alms’ (A term which is left undefined in the draft proposals) could face an on-the-spot fine of £100 rising to £1000 if unpaid. At a time when homelessness and destitution is rising across the UK, these new powers will do immense damage to the most vulnerable members of society as well as representing a waste of public money as the fines will not be able to be paid and the cost of processing people through the courts does not represent good use of scarce public resources. The police and council already have a wide range of existing powers that can be used to target aggressive begging or busking that causes a genuine nuisance. The new powers will criminalise people who are doing no harm.

My name is Jonny Walker and I am the founding director of the Keep Streets Live Campaign, a not-for-profit organisation that campaigns for public spaces which are open to informal offerings of art and music and other community uses. We have campaigned against the use of PSPOS to criminalise busking and homelessness  across the UK and have also advised the mayoral Busk in London taskforce on how to make the Greater London area more busker friendly. In Oxford and Chester the local authorities made significant changes to PSPO proposals to avoid criminalising the homeless and the most vulnerable whilst in Birmingham, one of the biggest local authorities in the UK, proposals to criminalise all busking with amplifiers using a PSPO was replaced by new busking guidance jointly agreed between the local authority, business and residents groups, the Keep Streets Live Campaign, Musician’s Union and Equity. This collaborative new approach, also adopted by Liverpool, York, Chester, Canterbury and other cities targets enforcement action against the small minority of buskers who cause persistent nuisance, whilst encouraging street artists and musicians to make the public spaces in those towns and cities welcoming and vibrant places.

I know from personal experience that Romford is not always a welcoming place for buskers because I was nearly arrested there in December 2015, before I had even played a note, because a police officer wrongly believed that busking constituted antisocial behaviour. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the highly sociable role that busking plays in our town centres by bringing people together and creating a vibrant and welcoming public spaces. The use of a so-called Public Space Protection Order to criminalise a sociable and beneficial community activity is entirely misplaced. The Keep Streets Live Campaign now publicly calls on Havering Borough Council to remove their plans to criminalise busking with a PSPO and to instead work alongside the Keep Streets Live Campaign, Musician’s Union and Equity to bring in new busking guidance allowing swift enforcement to be taken against buskers who cause a real nuisance whilst street art and music to flourish. We also ask that the council remove the clause on ‘begging and seeking alms’ and to concentrate scarce resources at a time of rising homelessness and desitution on protecting the most vulnerable instead of prosecuting them and to use existing powers to target only those whose behaviour genuine causes alarm, harassment and distress to others.