The UK Government is about to pass legislation which will make any behaviour perceived to potentially ‘cause nuisance or annoyance’ a criminal offence.
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill also grants local authorities, police and even private security firms sweeping powers to bar citizens from assembling lawfully in public spaces.
The Bill has successfully passed through the House of Commons without issue, and is now in the latter stages of review by the House of Lords, after which it will receive Royal Assent and become Law. Those who refuse orders under the new rules will face arrest, fines and even prison time.
Since the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which introduced Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) the government has invented and legislated for a litany of such orders covering everything from dog poo to drug addiction, including but not limited to: Control Orders; Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Orders; Intervention Orders; Crack House Closure Orders; Premise Closure Orders; Brothel Closure Orders; Gang Related Violence Injunctions; Designated Public Place Orders; Special Interim Management Orders; Gating Orders; Dog Control Orders; Letter Clearing Notices; Noise Abatement Orders; Graffiti/Defacement Removal Notices; Directions to Leave and Dispersal Orders.
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, creates a series of wildly ambiguous, generic orders which grant officers of the state and private sector even greater powers to issue tougher sentences, with fewer checks and balances to protect citizens.
The Bill introduces Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNAS) to replace ABSO’S. Almost no one will be sad to say goodbye to ASBO’s. The orders, designed to allow police to tackle anti-social behaviour, simply became a means of criminalising youthful indiscretion and eventually a means of criminalising anything people found annoying.[…
Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs), and new Dispersal Orders will replace Designated Public Space Orders, Dog Control Orders, Gating Orders and a host of other orders intended to keep aggressive drunken people, or drug dealers or dog poo off of our streets. But it is plain that the target for these laws is no longer the person peddling illegal drugs, but the people sharing politically challenging ideas.
These new powers present the most significant threat to lawful assembly and protest in modern history.
Public Space Protection Orders will be granted where ‘activities carried on or likely to be carried on in a public place will have or have had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality’ (p21). They can be used to restrict an activity or require people to perform an activity in a certain way. They require substantially less consultation than current alcohol free zones or dog control zones and rather than applying to everyone, they can be applied to specific groups of people (the homeless, the unemployed, racial/religious groups etc.) – opening the door for discrimination. These rules could see homeless people or young people lawfully excluded from public spaces.
PSPOs are subject to ‘on the spot’ fines, rather than attendance at a Magistrates Court, reducing the scrutiny and checks on police power.
These orders are also by no means short term. They can be applied for up to three years, and continued for another three years at the end of their term.
The orders have been heavily challenged by Liberty and The Manifesto Club on the basis that they will seriously infringe upon people’s freedom to assemble, associate and protest. The Ramblers (the walking charity) have also given written evidence to the government raising their fears about the further appropriation of public highways, by ways and footpaths under the PSPO powers….
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