Public Space Protection Orders
Local councils should be supporting those in need, but many are criminalising homelessness in a misguided attempt to airbrush their streets. The power to create Public Spaces Protection Orders must be scrapped.
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 gives councils the power to make Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) to ban any activities they consider to have a detrimental effect on the lives of others.
That vague definition of what can be criminalised is ripe for abuse, and local councils up and down the country have used them to ban rough sleeping and begging.
WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?
PSPOs carry on-the-spot fines of up to £100. If a person doesn’t pay, they face prosecution in the Magistrates’ Court and a possible £1,000 penalty.
Complex social issues like homelessness can’t be solved by criminal punishment. It is counterproductive and cruel to hit homeless people with fines they can’t possibly afford, and PSPOs simply fast-track people into the criminal justice system.
In December 2017, the Home Office issued guidance saying that PSPOs must not be used to target vulnerable people. This hasn’t slowed councils down. Instead they have drafted Orders more creatively, banning leaving possessions on the street, blocking doorways or lying down in public, for example – turning rough sleeping into a criminal act by the back door.
Guidance is not enough. The Government must scrap the power to create PSPOs once and for all.
WHAT IS LIBERTY DOING ABOUT IT?
In the first ever case of its kind, our client Sarah Ward is challenging Poole council’s PSPO in the High Court.
The Order disproportionately affects rough sleepers. Among other things, it bans:
• approaching people to beg
• having any object that can be used to contain money for the purpose of begging
• leaving belongings, baggage and bags unattended on the street
• causing an obstruction in car parks, doorways, public and communal areas.
The case could bring about the end of these cruel PSPOs.
We’ll be in court in 2020.
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