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.

ASB and Policing Act 2014, PSPOs what do they mean for public space?

ASB and Policing Act 2014, PSPOs what do they mean for public space?

Keep Streets Live – protecting cultural freedoms and access to public space for the arts

Sweeping new powers hidden in the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 come into force on October 20th, and already local authorities are planning to use them against buskers. This act gives councils the power to introduce PSPOs (Public Space Protection Orders) which can be used to ‘ban’ activities in public spaces, even if they are not illegal. The Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods in Bath, David Dixon, has stated that PSPOs will be used against buskers in that cityafter the Rector of Bath Abbey Edward Mason brought an evening service to a halt because of the noise he claimed street musicians were making. I will be taking part in a public debate about civic freedoms and public space with Rev Mason and Councillor Dixon this Saturday at the Battle of Ideas event held at the Barbican in London. Tickets are still available. Keep Streets Live will be at the forefront of scrutinising these new powers and their impact upon cultural and civic freedoms in the months and years ahead.

Meanwhile it is a year since the Citizen’s Kazoo Orchestra and the Church of the Holy Kazoo were founded as a protest vehicle against Camden Council’s criminalisation of busking in that previously vibrant corner of London. Our ongoing legal challenge against that policy reaches the Court of Appeal on November 13th with a permission hearing. On Sunday 19th October we will be taking to the streets of Camden for an anniversary protest busk. Because busking is a sacred act for the Church of the Holy Kazoo, and our hymnbook is every piece of music ever written and performed, our protest busk falls under the exemption granted by Camden to ‘music that is part of a religious service or ceremony’. Join us on Camden High Street from 1pm onwards. This is a link to the facebook event: All are welcome! Camden, we are not giving up on you!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1474664902822738/

Keep Streets Live exists to promote good relationships between buskers, local authorities and all users of shared public spaces. Whilst we oppose the use of blanket powers against street culture that criminalise harmless activity we recognise that councils need guidance for the oversight of busking. We are proud to have worked alongside Liverpool City Council and the Business Improvement District to produce a Best Practise Guidance document for street culture. We are now part of a London Mayoral Taskforce for the oversight of busking where we have been sharing the contents of the Liverpool document with the Mayor’s team. We believe that the principles in this guidance provide a working template not just for Liverpool but for other towns and cities in the UK and beyond that want to encourage harmonious relationships between those who share our public spaces whilst preserving a vibrant street culture. In a free society, freedom of expression must be protected and this guidance is a clear and workable alternative to the criminalisation of street culture and the application of coercive legal powers that some local authorities turn towards all too readily.You can see that document here: http://keepstreetslive.com/uncategorized/2014/09/best-practice-busking-guide

Thank you for your continued interest and support. We hope to see you on a street filled with music some day soon!

Love,

Jonny Walker

Director Keep Streets Live Campaign

http://keepstreetslive.com
https://www.facebook.com/groups/keepstreetslivecamden/
http://facebook.com/jonnysongs

Busking and Public Space Protection Orders

Busking and Public Space Protection Orders

The Keep Streets Live Campaign is a not for profit organisation that advocates for public spaces that are open to informal offerings of art and music. We are concerned that the provisions in the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 for local authorities to apply for Public Spaces Protection Orders to restrict ‘activities that carried out within the authorities area which have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality’ could easily be used to target buskers. The ‘reasonable grounds’ for introducing these new powers are so wide-ranging, all-encompassing and open to subjective interpretation that they might well be used to target informal performances of art and music on the grounds that some people don’t like buskers and find them annoying. In a House of Lords debate on January 21st Lord Clement-Jones, author of the Live Music Act 2012, sought reassurances from the government that the new legislation would not be used in an over-zealous way against musicians and street artists. Lord Clement-Jones asked ‘will local authorities ensure that these powers are exercised with proper consideration of the balance between freedom of expression and respect for private and family life, and will also point out the considerable existing body of nuisance and noise-abatement powers which local authorities already have to hand? Should we not be encouraging rather than discouraging busking, which is such an important part of our urban culture?’ The government response from Lord Taylor of Holbeach was that the legislation is aimed at ‘the antisocial minority who give street performers a bad name’. However, given that there is no requirement for judicial pre-authorisation for these new powers, they are wide open to abuse and the problems of differentiating between ‘the antisocial minority’ and ‘genuine performers’ are manifold.

 

In Birmingham buskers have been given letters stating that from October 2014 the police and local authority can apply for PSPOs against buskers and implying that these powers will be used if buskers don’t sign up to an extensive range of restrictions such as auditions, pre-booking only authorised spots and strict time limits on pitches. In this way PSPOs become a covert way of restricting freedom of expression under the pretense of protecting the quality of life of those in the locality. In reality local authorities have an enormous range of existing statutory powers which can be used to target noise nuisance and antisocial behaviour such as the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Public Order 1986. These new, additional powers have great potential for abuse and misuse and will need to be closely scrutinised in their application and challenged when necessary to ensure that vitally important civic and cultural freedoms are not lost with all the adverse implications for a free and democratic society.