Council leaders defend the use of anti-social behaviour legislation against accusations they are creating ‘bizarre new criminal offences’.
The anti-regulation campaign group Manifesto Club has criticised the employment of Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) by local authorities and called for them to be ‘scrapped or dramatically scaled back’.
They said the rate of PSPOs has increased and they argued this is ‘leading to increasingly bizarre new criminal offences.’
The 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act introduced PSPOs 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.
The Manifesto Club has published an updated version of its Busybodies’ Charter which claimed by February 2016 130 PSPOs had been issued by 79 local authorities – including 9 bans on swearing, three bans on rough sleeping, and 12 bans on loitering or standing in groups.
The group argues the use of PSPOs lead to the ‘criminalisation of everyday activities in public spaces and the undermining of fundamental public freedoms.’
The Local Government Association (LGA) has responded accusing the Manifesto Club of ‘trivialising’ anti-social behaviour which, it says, can have ‘tragic consequences’.
‘This report completely trivialises anti-social behaviour, such as aggressive begging, public drinking or racing in cars,’ Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA's safer and stronger communities board, said.
‘These are serious offences that make the lives of victims a misery – in some cases with tragic consequences. Councils are determined to protect their communities from behaviour that ruins their quality of life or means people are scared to visit public places.’
PSPOs, Cllr Blackburn added, are ‘effective tools’ which are ‘subject to democratic scrutiny and review.’
‘Councils listen to the concerns of local residents and businesses and consult with them to bring in PSPOs to address particular anti-social behaviour issues,’ Cllr Blackburn continued.
‘Crime and anti-social behaviour by its very nature varies from place to place and that is why different councils are responding in a variety of ways.’