Local councils abuse anti-social behaviour powers, campaigners warn

Exclusive: PSPOs can ban anything deemed a persistent nuisance, with penalties including court fines up to £1,000

Jonathan Owen
Thursday 11 February 2016 23:19
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There is concern that PSPOs are being misused, and penalising the wrong people
There is concern that PSPOs are being misused, and penalising the wrong people

Councils across the country are abusing powers aimed at preventing anti-social behaviours, using them against people ranging from dog walkers to buskers, campaigners have warned Home Office minister Lord Ahmad.

Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) can be used to ban anything deemed to be a persistent nuisance, with penalties including court fines of up to £1,000.

But there is mounting concern over the way the orders, which apply to England and Wales, are being used.

In the latest of a series of controversies, it emerged last week that under a PSPO by Havering Council, London, parents could be fined if deemed to be parking dangerously while dropping off their children at school.

“Local authorities are throwing these things around like confetti,” Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones told The Independent.

He has written a letter to Lord Ahmad, which is signed by seven organisations including Liberty, the Kennel Club, and the Musician’s Union.

The Government’s guidance says that the orders should not be used to ban reasonable activities.

“But the consensus of those monitoring PSPO enforcement, and many of those at the sharp end, is that the statutory guidance is not sufficiently clear and is not preventing the inappropriate use of these powers to restrict reasonable activities,” the letter says.

And PSPOs are being used “without any prior evidence of significant harm,” it states.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, should warn local authorities against misusing the powers, and meet with campaigners to strengthen the existing guidance, says the letter.

The Home Office does not comment on private correspondence. But a spokesman for the Local Government Association said: “Public Space Protection Orders can be used to address anti-social activities in public spaces, which are having a detrimental effect on the quality of life of local people.”

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