I understand that the human rights campaigning organisation, Liberty, have taken an interest in Exeter City Council’s proposal to introduce a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) covering Exeter City Centre.
During the Parliamentary passage of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, Liberty opposed the creation of the PSPO scheme, used to criminalise otherwise lawful activity. They expressed concern, in particular, about the potential of these orders to curtail peaceful protest and to impose punitive restrictions on homeless members of the community. For more information on Liberty’s work in this area please see their dedicated campaigns page.
Liberty are concerned that Exeter City Council proposals contain a requirement to remove equipment used for sleeping on the streets, this covers any “materials used for shelter against the elements, weather or ground”, which can be disposed of or confiscated if not removed when asked.
They also expressed concern if these provisions are considered in conjunction with a separate provision which would make it a criminal offence to beg in a public place.
Outside of those provisions targeting victims of extreme poverty, Liberty feel that vague proposals prohibiting people from behaving in ways which could be construed as alarming or distressing – on pain of a criminal sanction – are deeply illiberal and raise obvious freedom of expression concerns.
Liberty plans to respond to the Council’s consultation exercise ahead of the newly extended deadline of 29th February. We have been contacted by a substantial number of your constituents who are also extremely concerned at what is proposed. A Change.Org petition against the proposals has been created and has so far received 11,573 signatures
The consultation proposals are available here.