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.

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.

KSL Official Consultation Response to Newcastle City Council’s Authoritarian PSPO Proposal

KSL Official Consultation Response to Newcastle City Council’s Authoritarian PSPO Proposal

 

Newcastle City Council’s attack on street culture

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Please sign our petition against Labour-led Newcastle City Council’s proposals to make it a criminal offence to busk anywhere in the city after 8pm and to fine beggars up to £1000 and give them a criminal record as well as making it a criminal offence to raise funds for charity too ‘assertively’.

In 2015 Newcastle City Council published a document entitled ‘Vision for Culture’ which had the ambition of creating a city buzzing with creative spirit, offering opportunities for everyone to play their part in creating our culture – continuing to make ours one of the most vibrant cities in Europe. This laudable ambition jars with an authoritarian proposal that would make it a criminal offence to play music or sing songs anywhere on the streets of Newcastle after 8pm, despite clear evidence that buskers make the streets safer and less alienating places, especially at night when genuine antisocial behaviour such as physical violence is much more likely.

What can be done?

The Keep Streets Live Campaign exists to advocate for public spaces that are open to informal offerings of art and music and other community uses. We are against measures that criminalise destitute and marginalised people, and believe that Newcastle’s plans, whatever the council’s underlying motivation, will have a devastating impact upon some of the most vulnerable people in society, whilst also criminalising important cultural activities such as busking. The council are running an online consultation about the proposals which closes on February 8thand it is vitally important that as many people as possible complete the consultation and inform the council that these draconian and authoritarian measures do not have public support.

You can complete the online consultation on the council website here:

https://letstalknewcastle.co.uk/surveys/info/331

We have completed our submission to the consultation and are publishing our responses below for the public record. Please feel free to use our responses as a reference/guide when you complete your submission. It clearly explains the reasons why we are opposed to this PSPO.

If you can, please take a few minutes and complete this consultation, it will make a big difference, and your voice does matter.

KSL Official Response to Consultation 

  1. What do you think of the first set of potential things covered in the PSPO? Please tell us your comments on begging:

 

I am the founder and the director of the Keep Streets Live Campaign, a not for profit company which exists to advocate for public spaces which are open to the arts and other community uses. We are opposed to the use of a PSPO in its entirety in Newcastle because the powers are too wide-ranging and open to misuse. We will indicate separately why we oppose each different aspect of the PSPO in each section, 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 and often destitute and are reduced to begging in order to obtain food and shelter. The proposal would mean that a person sat down, without causing any issues to any other person, could face a criminal fine of up to £1000 and a court action which would, in itself, be costly and would in no meaningful way change their behaviour because they would now have a fine that they could not possibly pay, as well as a criminal record which would cause them to be more marginalised and isolated from society. Additionally 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.

 2.) Please give us your views on assertive or aggressive (commercial or charity) collection or soliciting for money on the street (this is sometimes called ‘chugging’):

Once again the wording of this prohibition is dangerously vague and open-ended and creates a potentially ambiguous criminal offence of ‘assertive’ charity collection. What objective standard of ‘assertiveness’ or ‘aggressiveness’ is being proposed to evaluate an offence which carries a criminal record and fines of up to £1000? Why is existing public order legislation such as the Public Order Act 1986 which created the offence of causing ‘alarm, harassment or distress’ insufficient to address a situation where there were concerns about the approach of a charity collector? What standard of evidence will be used to establish that this ‘offence’ has occurred? This has been poorly thought through and is most probably unlawful, and would be open to legal challenge.

3.) Please give us your views on busking after 8PM

All mention of busking should be removed from the PSPO.

The Live Music Act 2012, introduced to support the UK cultural economy and promote live music allows for unlicensed performances of live music between 8am and 11pm. The proposal to make busking after 8pm unlawful in Newcastle city centre creates a totally unnecessary and arbitrary criminal offence which will affect the cultural life of the city and puts Newcastle’s regulatory approach at odds with well established norms across the United Kingdom. Busking in the evening creates a sense of colour, atmosphere and place in cities and makes the streets safer. People who walk alone on city streets in the evening report that buskers make them feel safer and make places more welcoming. Additionally there is a wide array of existing legislation such as the Environmental Protection Act 1990 that can be used to address noise nuisance, regardless of the time of day or night. Including busking after 8pm on the PSPO would mean that a busker could be committing a criminal offence just for playing after 8pm, even if no nuisance has been caused to any person and no complaints have been made. This is an arbitrary and perverse outcome and will undermine respect for the rule of law. Newcastle City Council should work alongside the Musician’s Union the Keep Streets Live Campaign to introduce new guidance for busking, designed to promote good practise for buskers regardless of the time of day, and set out clear guidance for resolving disputes amicably. This has been and is being done successfully in Liverpool, York, Chester, Canterbury, Birmingham and elsewhere.

4. Please give us your views on continuing the existing on-street alcohol ban:

Whilst the proposed powers could in theory apply to a young couple who had bought a bottle of Prosecco for an impromptu summer picnic on the green, these powers could easily be and will most probably be used to target vulnerable and marginalised persons, such as homeless or vulnerably housed persons, or people with mental health problems. Whilst no one could reasonably object to a person facing enforcement action if their behaviour causes alarm, harassment or distress to others, this measure, in contrast allows council officers to target people solely on the basis that they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe that they will use an intoxicating substance within the PSPO area. This power would allow officers to seize legally purchased and unopened bottles containing alcohol, even if the person wasn’t drinking the alcohol at the time. As such, it is an unwarranted interference with the personal freedoms of individuals. Also there is no clear mechanism for an officer to establish beyond doubt that a so-called intoxicating substance has not been obtained lawfully and for a lawful, medicinal purpose. The PSPO creates a blanket power which is open to potential misuse. It would be better for the council and the police to focus upon known individuals whose actual behaviour is having a detrimental impact on the local community. These known individuals could be targeted rather than a blanket power which applies to every person, even if their behaviour is having no detrimental impact on any person.

5. Please give us your views on the taking, sale and / or provision of NPS (new psychoactive substances, sometimes called ‘legal highs’):

See above (4) for main response.

In addition, national legislation on this issue is coming into effect this year which the PSPO, at best, duplicates without the safeguards contained in the Act of Parliament.

 

 6.) Are there other things you would like to see included in a PSPO that you feel are detrimental to the quality of life for residents or people visiting Newcastle? Please give us your views:

No

7.) Do you have any other comments about this?

The Keep Streets Live Campaign believes that the use of Public Space Protection Orders is fundamentally problematic because they are open to misuse and create a high risk of criminalising vulnerable people unnecessarily. They create arbitrary new criminal offences from activities that are not, in themselves, harmful, and are, in fact, often beneficial such as ‘busking after 8pm’. They allow council officers and PCSOs to hand out Fixed Penalty Notices on the spot, removing due process and meaning that, a destitute and homeless person fined for begging for example, could end up in a magistrate’s court with a fine they cannot hope to pay, trapping them further into a cycle of deprivation and criminalisation. In addition, the PSPO duplicates existing laws by including offences that are already illegal under existing legislation. This is unnecessary and counterproductive. The council should not implement a PSPO in Newcastle and should, instead, focus on known individuals whose are causing persistent antisocial behaviour and take targeted enforcement action against those persons using existing legislation. With regards to busking and chugging the council should work alongside buskers, professional bodies such as the Musician’s Union to develop a code of practise which establishes clear guidelines and expectations for harmonious relations in the city.