KSL Official Response to Exeter PSPO Consultation

KSL Official Response to Exeter PSPO Consultation

Please sign our petition against Exeter City Council’s plans to criminalise homeless people and destroy their possessions. Protect civic freedoms and street culture in Exeter

azdQOSLlzGJhfaM-800x450-noPadLabour-led Exeter City Council’s new proposed ‘Public Space Protection Order'(PSPO) will give the police and council officers in that city the power to criminalise activities that they deem to be ‘antisocial’ such as rough sleeping, begging, or even busking. 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 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 the criminalisation of destitution and homelessness and believe that these plans, whatever the council’s underlying motivation, will have a devastating impact upon some of the most vulnerable people in society, whilst also criminalising cultural activities such as busking. The council are running an online consultation about the proposals which closes at midnight on Febuary 29thand 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:


We have completed our submission to the consultation and are publishing our response below for the public record. Please feel free to use our response 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 

There are six prohibitions and actions that the council want to include in the PSPO. We will publish the proposals in bold lettering and our response will be in italics.

It is proposed that the PSPO will stipulate:

Person(s) within this area, whilst situated in the street or other public space where the public have access without payment, shall:

1. Surrender any intoxicating substance in their possession to an authorised person on request, if:

a) they are found to be ingesting, inhaling, injecting, smoking or otherwise using intoxicating substances; or

b) they are in possession of such intoxicating substances with the intent of using intoxicating subtances within this area; or

c) the authorised person has reasonable grounds to believe that such person is using or intends to use the intoxicating substance within the said area.

Intoxicating Substances is given the following definition (which includes Alcohol and what are commonly referred to as ‘legal highs’): Substances with the capacity to stimulate or depress the central nervous system.


Whilst these 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. 


2. Not urinate in a street or public open space

The term ‘street’ includes any road, footway, beach or other area to which the public have access without payment. It also includes a service area as defined in Section 329 of the Highways Act 1980. Other areas will include parks and retail car parks to which the public have access to without payment.

Exemptions shall apply where a person urinating is making use of an authorised temporary public urinal/toilet has been provided in accordance with any specification issued by Exeter City Council and with its agreement.


Do you agree with Proposal 2?




Do you have any comments about Proposal 2? Please write these below

The powers could too easily be used to target vulnerable people who do not have access to public toilet facilities, especially during the nighttime hours. Existing legislation can adequately be used against persons who behave inappropriately, including public urination.

3. Clear away and remove from this area without delay (to the satisfaction of an authorised person) any unauthorised bivouac, bedding or equipment formed in a street together with any associated paraphernalia, when requested to do so by an authorised person and if that person fails to clear away and remove as directed an authorised person may then or on a future date or time confiscate and dispose of any unauthorised bivouac, bedding or encampment found within this area with or without the permission of its owner.

For these purposes, bivouac, bedding and encampment mean any portable shelter used for camping or outdoor sleeping, and include materials used for shelter against the elements, weather or ground.

For this purpose ‘unauthorised’ means without the express written consent of any owner (or any person having control over or an interest in the land in question).


Do you agree with Proposal 3?


It is highly distressing to see a Labour-led local authority even considering implementing these ill-thought out and authoritarian measures. This measure would make it a summary criminal offence, punishable by a fine of up to £1000 for a homeless person to not immediately remove their sleeping bag, or blanket when ordered to do so by a council officer, and gives the council the power to confiscate and destroy the bedding and possessions of homeless people on the basis that they had the temerity to object to being moved on. The extension of summary powers such as this to the local authority wrongly conflates destitution and lack of housing with ‘anti-social behaviour’. It will cause highly vulnerable people to become less safe and to face criminal sanctions purely on account of having to sleep rough. It means vulnerable people will be subject to potential bullying at the hands of council officers who will have the power to destroy their personal possessions if they don’t comply with orders that might be unreasonable and misconstrued. At a time of rising homelessness it is a disgrace that a Labour-led council in particular should be considering measures that criminalise the most vulnerable members of society and make their lives more difficult in a misguided attempt to sanitise the public spaces of the city. The local authority would do better to urgently address the provision of housing places for those who are inadequately housed and treatment for those suffering from addiction or mental health issues, instead of creating a criminal offence which will be used to marginalise the vulnerable and the destitute.


 Not make unsolicited and/or unauthorised request(s) for money (whether expressly requested or impliedly requested by conduct) in a public place from persons not known to the perpetrator.

For this purpose ‘unauthorised’ means without the express written consent of any owner (or person having control over or an interest in the land in question).


In common with proposal 3, proposal 4 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 is world in such a way that even a person who was 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.

This measure as currently worded would also criminalise ‘unauthorised’ busking because playing an instrument or singing on the street could be construed as an implied request for money. This is an absurd outcome, conflating a cultural activity which brings enjoyment and colour to the public spaces of a city, with a criminal, antisocial activity. It would lead to scarce public resources being directed towards the prosecution of people playing music on the street. It is contrary to Home Office advice on the use of Antisocial Behaviour legislation and is also likely to be an infringement of Article 10 rights to Freedom of Expression under the Human Rights Act. It is fundamentally misconceived.

5. Not behave either individually or in a group of two or more people in a manner that has resulted or is likely to result in any member of the public being intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed by that behaviour



6. Persons within this area who breach Prohibition 5 while in a group shall when ordered to do so by an authorised officer disperse either immediately or by such time as may be specified and in such a manner as may be specified.


Do you agree with Proposal 6?



Do you have any comments about Proposal 5 and 6? Please write these below.

Under the Public Order Act 1986 it is already a criminal offence to behave in a manner which causes Alarm, Harassment and Distress to other people. There are existing powers that can be used to disperse people who are causing antisocial behaviour, including Section 35  dispersal notices which can order a person or persons to leave an area for 48 hours. The PSPO proposal is too broad and does not have enough safeguards. It is also unnecessary.  The police and council have no need of this summary PSPO power which would extend the power to criminalise people to ‘authorised officers’ on the basis that they have a’ reasonable belief’ IS LIKELY to result in ANY member of the public being intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed by that behaviour. This wording is vague and nebulous and has the effect of extending summary powers to persons without the benefit of the extensive training that police officers undertake before becoming officers of the law. This proposal would allow a person to criminalise a person, or group of people purely because they take a subjective view that their behaviour ‘is likely’ to cause distress to ‘any’ person. This is bad lawmaking and can be rightly construed as an attack on freedom of association. It will radically alter the relationship between local authority officers and the people they are paid to serve and protect. The police and council should use their existing powers to target genuine examples of antisocial behaviour using their existing powers.

This post was written by
Singer-Songwriter/Professional Street Performer/Campaigner/Wandering Minstrel

25 Comments on "KSL Official Response to Exeter PSPO Consultation"

  • trevor purton says

    being homeless is not and should not be a criminal offence not helping the homeless should be

    • Emma Humphries says

      I totally agree and considering that Exeter is a Cathedral City and the Cathedral dominates the City Centre – you would think that the Council would be more Christian in their attitude towards homeless people. They are not criminals, they are people who could do with a helping hand – no one wants to be homeless and, as someone who grew up in Exeter, I am ashamed that my home town would be so heartless as to make it even more difficult for people whose lives are difficut enough already.

  • Deborah Preston says


  • Sally Wainman says

    Hi Jonny, You may or may not be aware that a substantial numbers of councils have closed public toilets on the grounds that they could not afford to keep them open!

    Private Eye recently carried a story of a council official or councillor caught urinating in a public place and it was his council that had closed all the toilets in that area.

    It might be worth researching to see if Exeter is one of the councils that has closed public facilities.

  • Barbara says

    Why is it not a crime to remove shelter and bedding from someone who has nowhere to sleep except a shop doorway or street? I can’t believe this is happening in Exeter!

  • Boris Voutsinos says

    Authorities that go authoritarian against their own public, its affairs and their environment are a worldwide phenomenon, because they simply “think” it’s easier and faster that way. But it is dangerous to variety and freedom, creates tension in society and usually results in bigger problems than the ones that were to be solved. As I see it, the KSL people are definitely high level discussion partners because they know the topic as part of their real life and living space. And they go deep into the essence, thinking of every bad impact that wrong decisions can have on all participants of the scene.

  • Martyn Wheatley says

    Yet another example of creeping Police State we live in

  • Sarah says

    I was under the impression the consultation was still open today but the link does not seem to work.

  • Peter Cooper says

    We have just had our first really cold spell of the winter, we have had months of rain. I wonder how many people chose to sleep outside in these conditions. Surely laws should be framed to address situations and activities over which people have choice.

    We (the citizens of Exeter and the surrounding area) Do have a choice whether to recognise our commonality with our street living neighbours and extend ourselves to help and protect the most vulnerable people with whom we share the city, or to victimise, criminalise and penalise people whose existence highlights our failure adequately to provide for our community.

    Please oppose these measures and support KSL in their campaign to highlight the council’s plans.

  • Kaya Hyslop says

    We need to get to the root of the problem. In other words we need to, as a caring and compassionate society, clean up our own back yard. We need to make more intelligent policies that protect the vulnerable. Our leaders need to listen to the voice and the needs of the people. It it plain to see we can choose to direct resources to the improvement of Life for All, and make courageous decisions in policy making, realising that we are all connected and we can solve all of our problems, with the spirit of goodwill for all. This is a global problem, but we must act locally.

  • Andrew Wain says

    The links on your site have been taken down yesterday (21st) by Exeter Council. Their Paul Bull, who has the laughable title “Member Champion for Community Engagement”, has put up a ‘Response to Change.org petition’ at http://exeter.gov.uk/response-to-pspo-petition/
    The good news is the deadline seems to have been extended to 29th February. There is a new link for the Public Consultation here: http://exeter.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/consultations-and-petitions/public-spaces-protection-order-consultation/

    Paul Bull’s response is deeply offensive to any one who cares about freedom and human rights. There is plenty of misinformation there to quote and respond to on the public consultation form. e.g. “An offence is only caused if the person refuses to clear away their bedding and other belongings when requested to do so by an authorised officer.” (A plain lie)
    and “confrontational issues that can arise when employees are seeking access to open premises in the morning and are obstructed by someone with their bedding and paraphernalia” (a situation where Police officers already have ample powers of arrest).

  • Oscar says

    I thought the consultation was still open today. Why isn’t the link working?
    Has anyone from the City’s council ever stopped to talk with a homeless person? It might just spark an element of humanity in those making decisions. It is morally repugnant to victimise and criminalise the vulnerable.

  • Jozef Appleyard says

    Remember the House of Cards Trilogy? Francis Urquart’s dream was the shining city of society’s elite, living in luxury and style. As for the not so privileged….. Well, the new Vagrancy Act can look after them.

    It beggars belief that a Labour-led council can do this. Stop persecuting the worst off in society and leave this behaviour to the money-grubbin’ Tories!

  • Oliver Whitehead says

    Firstly the fact many councils are trying to criminalise homelessness is a repugnant outrage- it is harassing and persecuting the very people of whom they owe a duty of care to.
    Secondly, homelessness is not the problem but in fact is the result of a system where wealth is concentrated to 1% of the population in the last ten years if I remember rightly the worlds richest 1% own as much wealth as the poorest 40% of the worlds population whom have in fact gotten poorer. Likewise in Britain over a million are dependent on foodbanks to feed themselves and their families whilst the number of millionaires since 2011 has doubled.

    Furthermore the council should not be taking any action against some of the most vulnerable in society unless it is an altruistic and positive one such as opening closed buildings during winter so the homeless do not have to sleep in the cold and risk illness, setting up doctor call outs to them, sheltered accommodation or simply giving them the inelastic goods which one needs to survive such as food and water for example.
    If the council criminalises homelessness it will be a retrogressive step and if the destroy someones property then they would be legally speaking be committed the offence of criminal damage as anything that takes “time,money or effort” to replace could constitute criminal damage.
    Lastly I would like to urge ALL councils to not criminalise homelessness or rough sleeping and take a compassionate approach to the issue and actually help their brothers and sisters that are in need as one day it could be them made homeless as it really can happen to anyone it doesn’t discriminate.
    Thank you for your time
    Oliver Whitehead

  • Rosie says

    Like Sarah, I was under the impression the consultation was still open today but the link does not seem to work. Is there a way around this?

  • Rosie says

    Just found a link that works: https://www.surveyserver.net/index.php?f=9788
    The site was updated on 21 January 2016 which could account for what’s happened.

  • Muriel says

    The fact that some through circumstance, and surely not through noise, end up having to sleep rough in the middle of winter, is not and can not be classified as an “offence” worthy of such a word. What is objectionable, is the fact that some people think it is. I suggest they try a week on the streets and then decide if people are doing this just to be “naughty, annoying, upsetting, objectionable”…. and all the other terms that might have previously comme to mind. Just try it, I’d love to know how you feel.

  • Brett Barber says

    Spend the money on helping these people to re-integrate not harass them because of their misfortunes. Truly a cruel and misguided intiative

  • holly says

    You , lose your job, you lose your home, you have nowhere to go, you bed down in a doorway.The Police find you and take away your shelter, bedding. Whats left for you? Jumping in the river?
    Stop thinking of the homeless as “other” and imagine its yourself thats cold , wet, alone.
    How does that feel?? Praps then you might want to do something to help the homeless instead of persecuting them?

  • Suzie says

    Feel very sad…for those with addiction issues there appear to be no options at night except Gabriel House which young and vulnerable people are told to avoid as abuse is common…the street is there only option. This plan will surely criminalise them and make their lives worse.

  • Chris O'Grady says

    To attack the weakest in society is despicable. Exeter council should be helping them rather than outlawing them. I wish they’d spend their time and money in a more positive way. Show some compassion.

  • Derek Byron says

    All the “holier than thou” brigade should be obliged to serve their time in deprivation experience first and then be entitled to pontificate on how to solve the problem.

  • Kat says

    Just because you are not privileged enough to have a house to put your possessions in does not give anyone the right to take them away. This is absolutely disgusting. Having worked with homeless people across Exeter I know how vulnerable, desperate and isolated these people are. Kicking them when they are at their lowest, imposing fines and giving them a criminal record is not going to help them get a job or improve their circumstances but instead be extremely damaging and detrimental and just perpetuate the cycle. Shame on you Exeter City Council. This is snobbery at its worst.

  • colette mougin says

    Taking the bedding and shelter from a homeless person is like stripping them naked. What sort of society allows homelessness anyway?

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