Friday 13 December 2019

Golf bags and card tricks banned under 'busybodies' charter'

Carrying golf bags is among the offences created by council powers dubbed a 'busybodies' charter'
Carrying golf bags is among the offences created by council powers dubbed a 'busybodies' charter'

Carrying golf bags, selling lucky charms and going out after 11pm if you are under 18 are some of the "bizarre" offences created by council powers dubbed a "busybodies' charter" by campaigners.

A survey by the Manifesto Club found 79 councils have used Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) to ban activities judged to have a "detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality" since they came into force in October 2014.

The civil liberties group said 130 PSPOs have been issued by councils, including 12 bans on loitering or congregating in groups, nine bans on swearing, three on face coverings, and two on aggressive or assertive charity collection.

The powers have led to peculiar offences, with a move by North East Derbyshire Council to ban people from playing golf in a park including the prohibition of carrying golf equipment in the area, the campaigners said.

Blackpool Council has banned people from "engaging youth in card tricks as a means of appropriating money" alongside the sale of lucky charms and heather in its city centre.

And Kettering Borough Council has banned under-18s from an area of town between the hours of 11pm and 8am, effectively putting in place a curfew.

Bad drafting is also unintentionally criminalising legal and normal behaviour, for example a ban in Wrexham of all "intoxicating substances", which the Manifesto Club argued would include coffee and tea.

The group also found that of the 56 councils which provided data, half passed a PSPO on the authority of a single council officer, 19 through a committee or two officers, and nine through the full council.

The powers were created by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones said: "I raised the likely misuse of these powers when the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act was going through Parliament, but the Manifesto Club's report shows the use of these powers to sanitise our public spaces has gone well beyond what the most pessimistic of us predicted.

"PSPOs are being routinely used by local authorities to criminalise a wide range of innocuous activities with minimal consultation or debate.

"We now need urgently to tighten up the statutory guidance and the preconditions for the exercise of these powers in the primary legislation to prevent any further misuse."

Home Office crime prevention minister Karen Bradley said: "Everyone has a right to feel safe in their own homes and neighbourhood, and that is why the Government reformed anti-social behaviour powers to allow councils and police to respond quickly to issues locally.

"Public Space Protection Orders are focused on delivering for victims and have allowed councils to address issues including alcohol-related harms and dangerous psychoactive substances.

"The Government has issued clear statutory guidance that requires councils to publish the draft order and consult with local police and community representatives."

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