William Eichler 09 March 2017

Council defends ban on swearing against human rights abuse accusations

Rochdale Borough Council has defended proposals to ban swearing in the town centre against accusations it is curbing the ‘rights and freedoms’ of its residents.

The council is considering plans to use Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) to introduce on-the-spot fines for people using offensive language in public.

PSPOs were introduced in 2014 under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act to help councils tackle anti-social behaviour, defined as anything which local authorities feel may have a ‘detrimental effect’ on the ‘quality of life’ of residents.

Rochdale’s proposal, which is only in its early stages, is part of a wider council drive to crack down on anti-social behaviour in general, including begging.

However, the human rights group Liberty has said the plan ‘unjustifiably curbs the rights and freedoms of Rochdale residents.’

‘These proposals are a staggering misuse of power which would unjustifiably curb the rights and freedoms of Rochdale residents,’ said Liberty legal officer Lara ten Caten.

‘The swearing ban is so vaguely defined it would prove impossible for anyone to know whether they were breaking the law or not, while a blanket ban on begging will criminalise some of the most vulnerable people in the town.’

In response, Cllr Richard Farnell, the leader of Rochdale Borough Council, asked if Liberty didn’t have ‘bigger things to worry about’.

‘With all the horrific human rights abuses happening around the world right now, I would have thought Liberty had bigger things to worry about,’ he said.

‘We are clamping down on a small minority of antisocial ne’er-do-wells who drunkenly shout and swear and harangue shoppers in our town centre.’

‘I make no apologies for trying to make Rochdale a more welcoming place for people to enjoy and this is supported by the overwhelming majority of local residents,’ he added.

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