Liberty | Campaigning against Public Space Protection Orders


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Campaigning against Public Space Protection Orders

Begging and sleeping rough aren’t anti-social behaviour – they’re the result of poverty


Why are Public Space Protection Orders important?

Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) are broad powers which allow councils to criminalise particular, non-criminal, activities taking place within a specified area. Unfortunately, we have frequently seen them used against the most vulnerable in our society, the homeless.

PSPOs are also being used to limit freedom of speech and the right to protest.

The power to impose PSPOs was created in 2014, under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.  At Liberty we opposed their introduction – because they are too widely drawn, with vague definitions of what can be criminalised, and carry disproportionately punitive sanctions.

And we were right. Several local councils across the country have recently introduced – or consulted on – unfair and overbroad PSPOs. A range of measures have been proposed, including a ban on rough sleeping and “aggressive” and “persistent” begging – “persistent” being defined by the authority as begging “on more than one occasion”.

These proposals would restrict rights protected under the Human Rights Act – in particular Article 8, the right to a private and family life, and Article 10, the right to freedom of expression. Article 11, the right to protest and freedom of association, would also be impacted if plans to prohibit the handing out of free leaflets are brought forward.

PSPOs simply fast-track vulnerable people into the criminal justice system – rather than divert them away from it.

If somebody is forced to beg or spend the night in a public toilet, that’s not a lifestyle choice or anti-social behaviour – that’s extreme poverty.  Local authorities should focus on finding ways to help the most vulnerable – not criminalise them and slap them with fines they can’t possibly pay.

“PSPOs criminalise both the most vulnerable and those exercising their democratic right to protest. We urge any Councils considering such Orders to think again.”
Rosie Brighouse, Liberty

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