- Monday 5th December at 7pm, Riverside Church & Conference Centre, 13-14 Oakhampton Street
- Tuesday 6th December at 6PM, Guildhall (businesses only) •
- Wednesday 7th December at 7pm, Exeter Community Centre, 17 St. David’s Hill
- Thursday 8th December at 7pm, St. Sidwell’s Primary School, York Road
Force Policy & Procedure: Anti-Social Behaviour & Escalation Policy
Policy Version Date: 26 April 2016
Review Date: 25 April 2017
Policy Ownership Local Policing & Partnership Department
Portfolio Holder Assistant: Chief Constable (LPP)
Links or overlaps with other policies See section 6
1. Policy Statement
1.1 The mission of Devon and Cornwall Police is to detect and prevent harm, protect the vulnerable and reduce crime. Working together as one team to safeguard communities and neighbourhoods, we are sustainable and resilient and provide a high quality service to the public acting in accordance with the national Code of Ethics and our Force standards of behaviour.
1.2 In pursuit of these aims, the Force will seek to work in partnership with our partner agencies, to ensure that Anti-Social Behaviour is tackled with the appropriate balance between support for those who are willing to accept it and swift, effective enforcement for those who are not.
1.3 Anti-social behaviour (ASB) is defined under section 2 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014
1.4 This policy is written with regard to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, Devon and Cornwall Force Strategy, the OPCC Policing and Crime Plan and the Home Office Statutory Guidance. OFFICIAL For Public Release [FOIA – Open]
1.5 The Police perspective in partnership working brings a focus on Public Protection, Action and Enforcement. It supports efforts of education, prevention and reduction.
1.6 Penalty Notices for Disorder will be taken into consideration with regard to any evidence gathering in relation to applying for a Criminal Behaviour Order.
1.7 This policy should be read with reference to TP05 Criminal Behaviour Orders Working Practice.
1.8 Devon and Cornwall Police will only apply for a Civil Injunction or Criminal Behaviour Order for an individual after going through the processes described in this document.
1.9 In the application of this policy staff are reminded of the need to comply with the standards and principles of the Code of Ethics for policing.
1.10 In the application of this policy staff are reminded of the need to comply with the Equality Act 2010.
2.1 This policy sets out the structure for dealing with persistent Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) at individual case level throughout Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. It has been drafted following consultation with Partner agencies such as Local Authorities, Health, Probation, Education and Social Services.
2.2 The structure is intended to be a common basic framework of minimum standards. This is to allow a flexible and adaptable response at the local level (Community Safety Partnerships) that can take advantage of local opportunities and recognise local constraints. It is not intended to be prescriptive. This is in recognition of the differing needs of our diverse communities.
2.3 Individual agencies may have their own internal mechanisms for dealing with ASB. It is not intended that this structure should replace these. It is intended that this structure should form a framework within which the work of differing agencies can be brought together to ensure that enforcement methods such as Civil Injunctions and Criminal Behaviour Orders are not sought without making use of warnings, support and joint interventions where appropriate.
2.4 It is intended that the Partnerships would use every tool at their disposal to offer persistent offenders the opportunity to help themselves. However if these efforts were ignored, swift and effective enforcement would follow.
2.5 This policy places value on our communities and is aimed at increasing public confidence in our service by use of a partnership culture firmly linking this policy to the Force Strategy. OFFICIAL For Public Release [FOIA – Open]
3.1. The ASB process begins when an individual comes to the attention of a partner agency for behaviour considered to be “Anti-Social”. This has been defined in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 as “conduct that has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person, conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to a person in relation to that person’s occupation of residential premises, or conduct capable of causing housing-related nuisance or annoyance to any person”.
3.2 Stage 1
3.2.1 The partner agency may use their own internal mechanisms for dealing with the ASB. Referrals may have been made to other agencies; routes to receiving help (involving other agencies) may have been sign posted for the individual. However as a minimum standard evidence would be required that:
The individual (and parent/guardian where appropriate) had been contacted. Note: This should be done by letter, and where appropriate by a visit in person as well. The letter would provide documentary evidence of the points below.
It had been explained to the individual why it was felt that the behaviour was unacceptable.
It had been explained to the individual the likely implications for the individual in terms of the ASB structure if there is a recurrence of the behaviour.
A contact point had been given to the individual concerned for any queries.
3.2.2 It is strongly recommended that where children and young people are concerned the Youth Offending Team is contacted at this stage.
3.2.3 The Gatekeeper within the partner agency would decide at which point to move the escalation process up to stage 2.
3.2.4 Within LPAs the nominated liaison officer will decide at which point to move the escalation process up to stage 2.
3.3 Stage 2
3.3.1 At stage 2 the Community Safety Partnership ASB Co-ordinator is informed. At this stage the minimum standards require that:
The ASB Co-ordinator has a point of contact within the partner agency.
The ASB Co-ordinator is satisfied that the minimum standards at stage 1 have been met.
The ASB Co-ordinator actively gathers intelligence on the individual concerned from partner agencies.
OFFICIAL For Public Release [FOIA – Open]
The ASB Co-ordinator would ensure that the individual concerned is aware of the seriousness of the behaviour in question and was aware of the consequences should this behaviour continue. This should be done by letter which, would provide documentary evidence and reinforced by a personal visit if appropriate.
3.3.2 In all cases where a child or young person is involved the ASB Co-ordinator will inform the Youth Offending Team at this stage.
3.4 Stage 3
3.4.1 This stage of the process is reached if the ASB persists or is of such proportions that intervention at this stage is required to address the behaviour concerned. The minimum standards at this stage require that:
The individual concerned is informed by letter of the meeting/consultation.
A multi-agency meeting/consultation takes place, where each agency in the partnership is represented.
The role of this multi-agency forum is to discuss support and enforcement that can be brought to bear and to offer the advice and assistance of the forum to partner agencies as appropriate.
The multi-agency forum would be responsible for the review and monitoring of individual cases at subsequent meetings, until the problem is felt to be resolved.
3.4.2 It is recognised that a consensus on the appropriate course of action to be taken may not always be reached. In cases where such consensus is not reached it will be for the statutory agencies to determine the course of action for fulfilling their obligations under Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 which creates a statutory duty for agencies to consult each other on matters regarding crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour, which led to the creation of the Community Safety Partnerships.
4. Audit / Assessment Compliance
4.1 This policy has been drafted and audited in accordance with the principles of Human Rights legislation, the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Policing Bureaucracy Gateway and Freedom of Information Act 2000. Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the document is classified as ‘Open’.
5. Review and Ownership
5.1 The review of the contents of this policy is the responsibility of the Head of the Local Policing and Partnerhips Department. Review of the policy will be undertaken annually. OFFICIAL For Public Release [FOIA – Open]
26/04/2016 5 Force Publication Scheme
6 Useful Links
6.1 TP05 – ASBO Working Practice
Penalty Notices for Disorder
Community Triggers Guidance
11 March 2016 | For immediate release
Tackling anti-social behaviour
A Public Spaces Protection Order could help to tackle anti-social behaviour in Exeter city centre but would need to be enforced by the police and not the local authority, leading City Councillors have said today (Friday 11 March).
More than 1,200 people responded to an extended 4-month public consultation on whether Exeter should have a Public Spaces Protecon Order. All the responses are now being carefully considered to inform a report that will go before councillors later in the summer.
Last week City Council officers said that they were likely to recommend the removal of powers to deal with encampments on public land, conviscation of personal items, and begging from the Public Spaces Protection Order, as these were opposed by the majority of those who took part in the consultaon exercise.
Now City Council Leader Pete Edwards has said that if other powers to tackle anti-social behaviour such as street drinking, urinating in public, the taking of illegal drugs and legal highs are approved, enforcement should be dealt with by the police and not the local authority, in accordance with the views of the public.
Cllr Edwards said: “We are still very much behind finding ways to tackle anti-social behaviour in Exeter, to protect the public and businesses from a small hard core of troublemakers. One of the ways might be through a Public Spaces Protection Order, but people still see the police as the upholder of the law in this country and that is why we will be recommending that this is the way it should stay if a Public Spaces Protection Order is adopted later in the year.”
Last year there were 200 logged reports of an-social behaviour in the Exeter city centre. The gure doesn’t account for unreported incidents and is therefore likely to be a lot higher.
“I am also keen to look at how we can support the provision of a greater police presence in the city centre, especially at times when these issues are at their most prevalent,” added Cllr Edwards.
10 March 2016
In a new era of official nastiness, it’s suddenly a crime to be homeless
by John Harris
Instead of addressing the causes of homelessness, local authorities are using public space protection orders to displace, fine and punish the vulnerable.
‘All over the country, police and local councils are criminalising begging and rough sleeping, seemingly trying to push such mounting problems out of sight.’ Photograph: Nate Kitch
A week ago, a case involving a homeless man called Ashley Hackett was thrown out of court in Brighton. He had been arrested by a plain-clothes police officer for asking a passer-by for 10p, an episode that triggered reports about Sussex police arresting 60 people on similar grounds in 2015 alone.
The story exploded in the pages of the Brighton Argus: local MP Caroline Lucas said she could not see “how criminalising desperate people for begging is helpful”; 30,000 people signed a petition decrying the policy responsible – and then, in the final denouement, prosecutors decided that the case was not in the public interest, and a district judge called time on the whole pathetic affair. In among the small print, there lurked truly Kafkaesque details, such as Hackett’s lawyer’s insistence that “he pleaded not guilty to begging because the offence says you’ve got to place yourself in that location to beg. He says he’s homeless and that’s where he lives.”
Unfortunately, the end of that case will probably have no effect on a monstrous shift in policy and official attitudes towards homeless people being rolled out around the country. As in-depth reporting in the Guardian this week has highlighted, rough-sleeping in England is up nearly a third year-on-year, and the figures have doubled since 2010: a plainly shameful fact that underlines the sense of a government locked into a grim re-enactment of the 1980s. Meanwhile, all over the country, police and local councils are criminalising begging and rough sleeping, seemingly trying to push such mounting problems out of sight.
Which brings us to a particularly horrible policy instrument known as public space protection orders (or PSPOs), brought in by the coalition government in 2014. As with New Labour’s antisocial behaviour orders, this new legal invention creates opportunities to criminalise hitherto non-criminal behaviour – but instead of Asbos’ focus on individuals, PSPOs are defined by particular areas.
The basic idea is simple enough. Designate a particular area, specify the behaviour you want to outlaw, and you’re off. In certain areas of Nottinghamshire, Bassetlaw’s Labour council has prohibited people under 16 “gathering in groups of three or more”; in Hillingdon, the Tories who run the borough have criminalised feeding pigeons in the park and, for young people in certain places, “gathering in groups of two or more persons unless going to or from a parked vehicle or waiting for a scheduled bus at a designated bus stop”. Obviously, those actions look comically draconian. But when PSPOs are applied to homeless people, the sense of punitive nastiness goes off the scale.
We are essentially talking about the policy equivalent of those spikes now affixed to modern buildings as a matter of course, in case anyone thinks of bedding down for the night. In Folkestone in Kent, a PSPO covers drinking, rough sleeping and begging; the latter is also a potential criminal act in Corby, Swindon and Oxford (where the council says it only applies to “aggressive” begging, though that includes simply asking for money near a cashpoint). In Wrexham, similar sanctions now apply to sleeping in a town centre park. Failure to comply entails a possible on-the-spot fine of £100 – this is for homeless people, let’s not forget – and, if the case goes to court, a penalty of up to £1,000. It is seemingly too early for cases to start colliding with the judicial system, but when they do, the waste of public money and chaotic fallout will speak for itself.
Nonetheless, the idea is catching on. Recent Freedom of Information requests by the Vice website discovered that at least 36 local councils in England and Wales “have introduced or are working on PSPOs which criminalise activities linked to homelessness”. In some places, there has been loud controversy about what is afoot: protests in Exeter, a U-turn in Newport, and another successful campaign in Hackney, east London, that last year forced the councilto back down.
But all too often there’s a sense of dull inevitability: in the absence of any real local or national scrutiny, councils do what they like, and no one really cares. Put another way: these days, if something happens in Corby, Swindon or Wrexham, can it really be said to have happened at all?
Moreover, as the Brighton case proves, the story runs much wider than PSPOs. Aside from London and Bristol, the city I visit most often is Manchester, where rough sleeping has exploded and, despite a more enlightened attitude to homeless people than you see in some other places, the city council and local landlords spent some of 2015 locked into an on-off game of injunctions, clearances, and ongoing bad feeling.
As a dry space long used by homeless people was suddenly cleared and fenced off – which is how it remains – and protest camps set up by homeless people spread across the city, the council won an injunction against anyone pitching a tent, which went as far as listing the items (sleeping bags, cardboard boxes) that were still permitted, and led to homeless people facing fines of up to £5,000. When I last visited, a new canvas encampment had sprung up on land owned by Manchester University, close to Piccadilly station: a fragile mini-shanty town, symbolising the fact that in the surrounding regenerated wonderland, scores of homeless people seem to have been reduced to an inconvenience.
At the heart of all this, there is often a kind of municipal Trump-ism, whereby police and crime commissioners, senior officers and politicians of all parties affect a crass language of crackdowns and zero tolerance, while doing little to get to grips with the actual issue. Obviously, they can account for their actions in terms of austerity: if average local authority funding for services helping people avoid homelessness was cut by 45% between 2010 and 2015, and homelessness and rough-sleeping are reaching such uncontrollable heights, what else can they do?
The answer to that is simple enough: whatever your intentions, once you start blankly criminalising people who need serious and wide-ranging help, you surely risk shutting down any argument for that kind of assistance ever returning. Fines and arrests back up the rightwing idea of character failure; George Osborne sleeps that bit more easily.
Here, though, is perhaps the most awful aspect of what’s happening. If the official attitude to people who sleep on the streets looks like cold contempt, we shouldn’t be all that surprised if that is reflected not just in public indifference and hostility, but in outright acts of inhumanity.
Back in Brighton, this week brought news of a homeless man suffering burnsafter his sleeping bag and cardboard shelter were set on fire. Vulnerability to violence is often at the heart of living without a home: if we reduce people to being annoying untouchables, maybe that’s the kind of terrible thing that will happen more often.
04 March 2016
Public Spaces Protection Order – UPDATE
Controversial powers to deal with encampments on public land and begging, should not be adopted as part of a Public Spaces Protection Order, officers at Exeter City Council are likely to recommend.
The move comes as the Council revealed it had received more than 1,200 responses following a 4-month consultation exercise into whether a Public Spaces Protection Order should be introduced in Exeter.
These responses are now being carefully considered to inform a report that will go before councillors in the summer.
Council Leader Pete Edwards said that whilst results were being fully considered, initial indications are that certain parts of the Public Spaces Protection Order were opposed by many.
“We will carefully consider all the views received,” said Cllr Edwards. “This is exactly why we extended the consultation period, to hear what people had to say.
“This is an emotive piece of legislation with passions on both sides of the argument running high. However, with regard to these particular elements, officers are likely to recommend that they shouldn’t be adopted as part of any Order.
“We shouldn’t forget that anti-social behaviour is the primary focus of the Public Spaces Protection Order. The consultation was brought about because of strong public concern about anti-social behaviour in the city centre.’
Cllr Keith Owen, Lead Councillor for Health and Place, said: “We certainly wouldn’t want to pre-empt a report that will be presented to full Council in the summer.
“All views will be carefully considered and I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time and trouble to feedback on what is a complex issue.”
29 February 2016
Councils were given powers to introduce the bans, known as public spaces protection orders (PSPOs), in October 2014. They allow local councillors to ban any activities which have a “detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality”. They’re like ASBOs for your neighbourhood. They allow for blanket bans across whole areas, turning things that are not illegal into criminal offences. If you break a PSPO you get a £100 fine. Non-payment can land you in court with a criminal conviction and a £1,000 fine.
Hackney Council faced a backlash in June last year after it introduced a PSPO banning rough sleeping, begging, and a range of other “offences”, a move condemned by everyone from Green party leader Natalie Bennett to pop singer Ellie Goulding. The order was eventually scrapped after 80,000 people signed a petition opposing the policy.
However, Hackney Council may be feeling hard done by, as similar policies have been introduced in other areas of the country without attracting the same level of pop star-backed outrage. At least eight authorities have adopted or are working on PSPOs targeting loitering. Begging has been banned in Corby, Newport, and Oxford. Similar bans are being considered in Exeter, Kettering, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northampton, Southampton, Stockport, Swindon, and Woking. A rough sleeping ban is in place in Shepway and is being considered in Chelmsford, Cheshire West and Chester, Gravesham, Maidstone, and Wrexham.
In total, at least 36 local authorities have introduced or are working on PSPOs which criminalise activities linked to homelessness. The findings come just a few days after government statistics revealed that the number of people sleeping rough in England has risen by nearly a third in the last year. Charities have condemned the use of PSPOs to tackle homelessness, with Crisis describing the practice as “counter productive” and urging councils to consider other ways to take people off the streets.
Rosie Brighouse, a legal officer at human rights organisation Liberty, said: “From their inception, Liberty warned that PSPOs were incredibly blunt instruments ripe for misuse and abuse – and that’s exactly what they’ve proven to be. We’re increasingly seeing councils using overly broad orders to penalise the very people they should be helping, and we’re challenging them wherever we can. The government needs to urgently rethink these dangerous powers – handing hefty fines to homeless people, for example, is obviously absurd, counterproductive and downright cruel.”
In June last year, Liberty intervened when Oxford City Council announced a proposed ban on “persistent begging” and sleeping in public toilets, writing to the council with a legal opinion that the policy would be unlawful. The council delayed its decision, but eventually introduced an amended version of the order which banned “aggressive begging”. In Newport, Liberty issued a similar warning which led to the council abandoning a proposed ban on rough sleeping, while still going ahead with a clampdown on begging.
As more PSPOs come into force, it’s become increasingly clear that the legislation does little to protect public space. In fact, it seems to be doing the opposite. While many are used to clamp down on street drinking or are aimed at nuisance dog owners, there are plenty more outlandish examples. It is now a criminal offence to shout or swear in an area of Bassetlaw. Congregating in groups of two or more is banned in one estate in Guildford. It is illegal to “cause annoyance” in part of Lancaster. Possession of golf equipment is outlawed in an area of North East Derbyshire. Other activities which have been banned, or will be in the near future, include ball games, busking, feeding birds and playing music loudly. One of the most troubling aspects is how vague the supposed offences are – who gets to decide that you’re being “annoying” enough to deserve a criminal record?
At the beginning of February 2016, 78 local authorities had already introduced PSPOs. Thirty-nine more had consulted or were consulting on introducing an order. In total, just over half of all councils told VICE they had introduced or started work on a PSPO.
Josie Appleton is director of civil liberties pressure group The Manifesto Club. She argues that while PSPOs are sometimes used to tackle genuine problems, they don’t represent a solution. “A PSPO is never the answer,” she said. “You push people out of public space. Councils are very much approaching this with that in mind. They don’t care where people go. It’s a sticking plaster, it never deals with the problems.” Appleton also questions whether we should feel comfortable with so much power being placed in the hands of local councillors. “It’s extraordinary as a model of law making,” she said. “Essentially you say local authorities can write whatever laws they want.”
Awareness of PSPOs, and concern about the ways they are being used, is now growing. Comedian Mark Thomas has been leading a series of protests against PSPOs around the country – in September, he held a lying-down demonstration in Chester in a bid to highlight a proposed rough sleeping ban in the town. When author Will Self led a “mass trespass” in London earlier this month, which sought to highlight the rate at which public space is being privatised, he said: “This is part of a gathering campaign to resist what I call ‘piss-pots’ – Public Space Protection Orders.”
Nevertheless, new orders are still being introduced every week. Some seem relatively harmless – the Forest of Dean agreed last week to investigate a ban on nuisance sheep. Others are more worrying, such as a proposed order in Chelmsford, where councillors will this week decide whether to ban begging and “rough sleeping resulting in anti-social behaviour”. For now, councils are free to criminalise anyone who finds themselves living on the streets, or carrying golf clubs in the wrong part of town.
Liberty to urge Exeter City Council to scrap unjustified PSPO plans
Human rights campaigning organisation Liberty is deeply concerned that Exeter City Council’s proposed Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) will criminalise the city’s most vulnerable people.
A consultation into the Council’s plans closes at midnight on 29 February 2016. Liberty intends to respond to the consultation with a detailed analysis of how the PSPO will potentially lead to unjust, counterproductive and unlawful action being taken against homeless people.
As drafted, the Order bans unsolicited requests for money and gives police and Council officers the right to clear away any bedding found in a street in Exeter’s city centre.
The PSPO gives police and council officers the power to issue on-the-spot penalties of up to £100. If those in breach are unable to pay, they could face prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.
Liberty believes the Order may, if implemented, breach the rights of the people of Exeter under the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights. The Council is bound by the Act not to behave in a way which would disproportionately affect those rights.
Pressure is building on the Council to abandon its plans. Last week comedian Mark Thomas led a protest against the PSPO outside the civic centre. A petition against the criminalisation of rough sleepers in the city has also amassed over 12,000 signatures.
Unjustified, unwanted and unlawful
Rosie Brighouse, Legal Officer for Liberty, said: “Begging and rough sleeping are the result of poverty and it is both ridiculous and counterproductive to slap society’s most vulnerable with criminal records and fines they cannot possibly pay.
“The current proposals are unjustified, unwanted and potentially unlawful. We will be making representations to the Council in due course to express our concerns more fully and urge it to protect the rights of the people of Exeter by scrapping these misguided plans.”
Notes to editors:
Contact the Liberty press office on 020 7378 3656, 07973 831128 or email@example.com.
- Created in 2014 year by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, PSPOs enable local authorities to criminalise activities that have a persistent and unreasonable detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the area.
- Liberty opposed their creation on the basis that they are too widely drawn, with vague definitions of what can be criminalised and disproportionately punitive sanctions, and would result in the fast-tracking of vulnerable individuals into the criminal justice system.
- Liberty is campaigning to end the use of unfair, overbroad PSPOs which penalise the most vulnerable in our societies. In June 2015, Liberty wrote to Oxford City Council calling on it to scrap plans to criminalise rough sleepers and buskers. The PSPO was passed in October with the Council making significant concessions.
- Liberty wrote to Birmingham City Council in July 2015 in opposition to an intended PSPO placing a blanket ban on the use of amplification. In September, the Council dropped its plans.
- Similarly, Liberty wrote to Cheshire West and Chester Council in October 2015. The Council dropped plans to ban rough sleeping from a draft PSPO in November.
- Newport City Council radically overhauled its planned PSPO in November after pressure from Liberty. The Council completely removed provisions relating to rough sleeping.
- Earlier in November, Liverpool City Council abandoned similar plans on the basis that they were simply “a bit daft.”
It is important that we are clear about the language of homelessness – throughout my writing on this blog , and elsewhere, I will try to use the following terms:
Ambulant begging – The practice of walking up to people to ask for money, as opposed to static begging. Can be an unintended consequence of enforcement action taken against the more visible practice of static begging.
Anti-social behaviour (ASB) – is defined as “Behaviour by a person which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as the person”. (Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003 & Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011)
Assertive outreach – A way of engaging clients and organising and delivering care via a specialised team to provide intensive, highly-coordinated assessment, referral and flexible support. Characterised by a persistent, long-term presence and approach to building relationships.
Begging – Asking people for money, and in this context includes behaviours which include poor-quality busking, crafts etc.
Designing-out – Adapting, changing and designing the built environment to deter behaviours that are deemed undesirable or anti-social. (E.g. removing benches in areas frequented by street drinkers, gating shop doorways to prevent rough sleeping etc.)
Enforcement – Assertive and potentially punitive actions under legislative powers designed to deter, prevent, disrupt or punish crime and anti-social behaviour.
Exit offer – A comprehensive and accessible range of responsive, flexible social support – delivered within a multi-agency framework – designed to meet an individual’s multiple and complex needs at the same time, in order to achieve a sustainable exit from street-attached lifestyles.
High-yield [begging] sites – Locations with a built environment that are sites of repeat begging activity because they are perceived to be particularly lucrative. Examples include ATMs, night-time economy venues, and outside shops of a particularly high footfall.
Homeless – “You should be considered homeless if you have no home in the UK or anywhere else in the world available for you to occupy. You don’t have to be sleeping on the streets to be considered homeless.” (Shelter.) People may still be considered homeless who are living in squats, in temporary arrangements with friends / family with no long-term prospect of settled accommodation, etc.
Multiple and complex needs – The experience of several problems at the same time, such as mental ill-health, homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, offending, and family breakdown. People with multiple and complex needs may have ineffective contact with services that are designed to deal with one problem at a time, and are are often trapped living chaotic lives.
New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – also called “legal highs”, NPS are defined by the present government as, “‘Psychoactive drugs, newly available in the UK, which are not prohibited by the United Nations Drug Conventions but which may pose a public health threat comparable to that posed by substances listed in these conventions.’ They are currently legally available in retail shops and through online distributors, but are the subject of draft legislation. (Psychoactive Substances Bill, 2015-16)
Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) – A public spaces protection order is an order that identifies a specific public place and gives powers to the local authority to prohibit specified behaviours in the restricted area and/or requires specified things to be done by persons carrying on specified activities in that area. The order may not have effect for more than 3 years and the Local Authority must consult with the chief officer of the police and the local policing body before issuing the order.Failure to comply with a public spaces protection order is an offence. Exeter City Council is currently consulting about imposing a PSPO in the city centre.
Rough sleeping – Also called “street homelessness”, a type of homelessness where an individual quite literally is reduced to living and sleeping in open, public spaces – whether through circumstances or choice. Many people who sleep rough will suffer from multiple health conditions, such as mental health problems and drug misuse, and they are also in greater danger of violence, suicide and premature death than the general population.
Sex work – The exchange of sexual services for material compensation – and this can include cash, accommodation, and drugs / alcohol. Sex work is usually grouped as indoor (escorting, massage parlours, brothels) or on-street (outdoor), with the latter being considered far more risky, and associated with more chaotic lifestyles. Exeter has little or no on-street sex industry.
Shoplifting – An acquisitive crime that occurs when someone steals merchandise offered for sale in a retail store. Repeat and prolific shoplifting behaviour can be associated with class A drug use, and some police forces are reporting increases in shoplifting caused by destitution.
Street activity – A broad, generic term for a range of street-based anti-social behaviour, including rough sleeping, begging, street drinking etc.
Street-attachment – A term that recognises the “pull” that street-based lifestyles and peer relationships may have on individuals – including those that are now housed. “Street-attached” individuals may still spent significant periods of time on the street, remain part of street communities, and engage in street-based anti-social behaviour.
Street community / street population – A broad term for groups of people who are street-attached, and engage in street-based anti-social behaviour.
Street drinking – Consumption of (often high-strength) alcohol in a public setting outside of licensed premises. Street drinking can be associated with increased anti-social behaviour, litter, and aggression.
Vulnerably housed – A term for people who are technically housed, but where their accommodation is sub-standard, not sustainable or otherwise not assured, or where it is not suitable to their needs or possibly even detrimental to their health and wellbeing.
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.