Liberty welcomes Newport City Council’s radical overhaul of unlawful and unjustified PSPO plans

25 November 2015

Liberty has welcomed Newport City Council’s decision to radically overhaul its plans for a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) that would have constituted a major threat to civil liberties – and an affront to the city’s Chartist legacy. 

It was confirmed at a Council meeting last night that the authority will no longer proceed with proposals to place a blanket ban on rough sleeping and begging in the city centre. 

Liberty wrote to Council Leader Robert Bright in October warning that the proposed bans on rough sleeping and begging would interfere with Articles 8 and 10 of the Human Rights Act. Under the Act, the Council is bound not to behave in a way which would disproportionately affect those rights. 

If introduced, the Order would have given police and council officers the power to issue on-the-spot penalties of up to £100 to those in breach – even those who were homeless or destitute. If unable to pay, they could have faced prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

The provision on rough sleeping has now been completely removed from the draft Order, while that on begging has been watered down. 

Liberty’s letter also advised that the proposed blanket ban on free printed leaflet distribution amounted to a breach of the right to freedom of expression and may have also inhibited the right to protest.

The Council abandoned the leaflet distribution provision later in October.

Rosie Brighouse, Legal Officer for Liberty, said:

“Make no mistake, these concessions are a significant improvement and we are delighted the Council has seen sense. The amendments are testament to both the power of our Human Rights Act and community campaigning. 

“It’s shocking that similar proposals to use PSPOs to criminalise the poorest in society continue to surface up and down the country. We hope to see more authorities follow Newport’s example and backtrack on their misguided plans.”

A mockery of Newport’s Chartist legacy

The Council sought to introduce the PSPO in time for the opening of the Friars Walk retail development in November 2015.

Newport’s famous Chartist mural was demolished to make way for the development in 2013, resulting in significant outcry. The new retail park will include artwork commemorating the Chartists’ struggle, along with an engraving of the People’s Charter. 

Ironically, the Chartists – whose demands were in large part motivated by widescale poverty and homelessness – made extensive use of the distribution of newspapers, pamphlets and posters in galvanising support.

Notes to editors

For more information, or for a copy of the letter sent to Newport City Council, contact the Liberty press office on 020 7378 3656, 07973 831128 or pressoffice@liberty-human-rights.org.uk.

About PSPOs

  • Created last year by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, 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, 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 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. The Council dropped plans to ban rough sleeping from a draft PSPO in November.