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.

Exeter City Council PSPO proposal would criminalise buskers, the homeless and many more.

Exeter City Council PSPO proposal would criminalise buskers, the homeless and many more.

Please sign our petition against the criminalisation of the homeless, buskers and others in Exeter

shutterstock_252174412

 

https://www.change.org/p/exeter-city-council-don-t-criminalise-exeter-s-rough-sleepers-or-destroy-their-belongings

Labour-led Exeter City Council’s new ‘Public Space Protection Order’ (PSPO) will give the police and council officers the power to criminalise activities that they deem to be ‘antisocial’ such as rough sleeping, begging, or even busking. Those who breach the order could be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £100 or a fine of up to £1000 and a criminal record. The order also gives the council the power to seize and destroy the bedding and personal possessions of homeless people (A measure, which, especially during winter could leave them incredibly vulnerable to adverse weather).
Please take a moment to complete the online consultation about these measures after reading this article by clicking on the link below:
Exeter City Council online PSPO consultation

 

Homelessness has risen by 50% since 2010 under the current government and a recent study demonstrated that nearly 100,000 children in England alone are homeless, a figure that the chief executive of children’s charity Barbados Javed Khan called ‘a national embarrassment’. A measure that effectively criminalises rough sleeping and associated behaviours in Exeter city centre will only increase (already high) levels of stigma surrounding Exeter’s homeless population.It privileges the appearance of Exeter over its’ citizens’ wellbeing, and risks treating rough sleepers as a problem to be dealt with, as an inconvenience, as a threat, rather than as individual human beings. We already know that homeless people are amongst the most vulnerable in our society and are already victims of exceptionally high levels of violence, crime and victimisation which is often committed by the general public and largely goes unreported.
These proposals could also see some of the most impoverished people in the UK facing criminal charges and unpayable fines of up to £1000 just for refusing to remove their bedding when ordered to by a council official, or busking ‘without authorisation’. The PSPO would also give council officers the power to order any person, or group of people to leave the city if they thought it was ‘likely’ that they might behave antisocially, a power that is wide open to abuse and misuse. Taken together, these powers are not only  an attack on the cultural life of Exeter’s public spaces, they are also an attack on freedom of expression and freedom of association as well as an attack on the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.

When Hackney Council introduced similar proposals, over 80,000 people signed a petition causing them to abandon their plans. When Oxford City Council introduced similar proposals over 72,000 people signed a petition asking them to think again and Liberty issued a legal challenge calling on them to abandon their unlawful attempts to criminalise homeless people and buskers. Liverpool City Council abandoned similar proposals at the consultation stage after a public outcry. Chester City and Cheshire West Council also abandoned their plans to criminalise busking and rough sleeping after a petition was signed by nearly 16000 people.

As Rosie Brighouse, Legal Officer for Liberty rightly pointed out in their legal challenge to Oxford:

“If somebody is forced to beg or sleep in a public toilet, that’s not antisocial behaviour – it’s poverty.  Oxford City Council should focus on finding ways to help the most vulnerable people in their city, not slapping them with a criminal record and a fine they can’t possibly afford to pay”

The Keep Streets Live Campaign is a not for profit organisation which advocates for public spaces which are open to informal offerings of art and music and other community uses.  We are calling on Exeter City Council to abandon their PSPO proposal. The council and police have strong existing powers to deal with the small minority of people who cause genuine antisocial behaviour, they have no need for the proposed sweeping and arbitrary measures.  We have seen public pressure prevent similar measures being adopted in Oxford, Westminster and Hackney and know that public pressure can stop this from happening in Exeter too. Let’s make sure that councils like Exeter and policy makers deal with the causes of homelessness such as lack of affordable housing rather than making the lives of the most vulnerable even harder.

Cheshire West and Chester City Council’s Assault on Street Culture

Cheshire West and Chester City Council’s Assault on Street Culture

Please sign the petition to stop the criminalisation of the homeless and buskers in Chester

Cheshire West and Chester Council have decided that it would be a good idea to deal with homelessness not by providing shelter for the vulnerable but by making it a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1000 to ‘lie down or sleep in any public place’.

In a wide-ranging proposal to tackle ‘antisocial behaviour’ in the city using controversial new Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) powers they are also planning to criminalise buskers who haven’t passed a ‘quality assessment’ first though the private business group CH1 BID company. This proposal turns council officials into civic Simon Cowells with a nasty twist, the power to give musicians a criminal record for singing songs on the streets. It is attack on the spontaneity and informality which is part of what makes busking such an integral part of Chester’s cultural heritage. Ludicrously, the proposed PSPO would also make it a criminal offence to ‘feed any bird’ in the defined area.

When Oxford City Council introduced similar proposals over 72,000 people signed a petition asking them to think again and Liberty issued a legal challenge calling on them to abandon their unlawful attempts to criminalise homeless people and buskers.

As Rosie Brighouse, Legal Officer for Liberty rightly pointed out in that challenge:

“If somebody is forced to beg or sleep in a public toilet, that’s not antisocial behaviour – it’s poverty. Oxford City Council should focus on finding ways to help the most vulnerable people in their city, not slapping them with a criminal record and a fine they can’t possibly afford to pay.

One of the architects of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s proposals, Chief Inspector Jez Taylor, a partnership officer with Cheshire Police, has justified them in the following terms:

“Chester is one of the best preserved medieval walled cities in the United Kingdom. Its Roman heritage and many assets including the cathedral, the walls, the racecourse, the zoo and the river…a PSPO will…improve the image of the city centre

But this approach to policy making privileges the appearance of Chetser and surrounding areas over its’ citizens’ wellbeing, and risks treating rough sleepers, the vulnerable and even buskers as a problem to be dealt with, as an inconvenience, as a threat, rather than as individual human beings.

 The Keep Streets Live Campaign is a not for profit organisation which advocates for public spaces which are open to informal offerings of art and music. We have successfully overturned policies which criminalised buskers in Liverpool and York where we now work with the councils to design best practise policies for street culture alongside groups like the Musician’s Union.

We are calling on Cheshire West and Chester Council to abandon their plan to criminalise rough sleeping, begging and busking. The council and police have strong existing powers to deal with the small minority of people who cause genuine antisocial behaviour, they have no need for the proposed sweeping and arbitrary measures.  We have seen public pressure prevent similar measures being adopted in Oxford, Westminster and Hackney and know that public pressure can stop this from happening in Chester too. Please take a moment to sign and share this petition to stop Cheshire West and Chester Council from making homelessness harder than it already is.