Liberty to urge Exeter City Council to scrap unjustified PSPO plans

15 February 2016

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 pressoffice@liberty-human-rights.org.uk.

About PSPOs

  • 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.”