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PSPO: England and Wales review

Featured in the January 2018 print issue of Professional Security as one of the POP (problem-oriented policing) awards finalists was the work done on Uxbridge Street in Shepherds Bush in west London to counter on-street anti-social behaviour, that was making life uncomfortable for locals and local businesses alike; yet many had given up contacting the police about it.

The case showed how it is possible to tackle such crime and nuisance, although it takes attention to detail (including reports being recorded and analysed in the first place, as otherwise the authorities don’t know there is a problem), and partnership working between police, local government and others (in the Shepherds Bush case near Shepherds Bush market, BT took the doors off a pair of telephone boxes that were a hot-spot of anti-social behaviour, to make the boxes less attractive to those hanging around).

Here we review how the Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 is being used around England and Wales. For the new PSPO in Derby city centre, click here.

A consultation by Cheltenham Borough Council on proposals to vary its PSPO closed on January 5. The council wants to prohibit people selling second hand tickets for the main horse racing events of the Cheltenham year. Councillor Andrew McKinlay, cabinet member for development and safety, says: “We are asking residents, visitors and partners’ views on a proposal to ban ticket touting during key horse racing events in certain parts of the town. With horse racing events at the racecourse growing in popularity, the problems associated with ticket touting are increasing too.”

The current PSPO came into force on April 26, 2017. It restricts the public consumption of alcohol in parts of the town and places a number of obligations on dog owners. This amendment is to include a new prohibition on ‘ticket touting’ during:

a) The Festival (March)
b) The November Meeting (November)
c) The Showcase (October).

To repeat the point brought out at the POP awards, anti-social behaviour is often highly localised, and requires a local response; hence PSPOs are accompanied by boundaries to specific places – such as in South Tottenham in N15, on Seven Sisters Road in the north London borough of Haringey, outside Wickes Superstore and in the alleyway between Roslyn Road and Southey Road. A proposed PSPO would involve restricting access to the alleyway by installing a lockable gate.

Rochdale councillors have agreed to a PSPO covering the town centre. New powers cover:

• Control of commercial or charity collection or soliciting of money in the street
• Consumption of alcohol in the street
• Driving or using a car in an anti-social manner
• Obstructing the highway or loitering
• Anti-social parking
• Use of skateboards, bicycles and scooters in certain areas, not including mobility scooters
• Begging on the street

Most consultation respondents, including all businesses who took part, backed the order, the borough council reported.

Orders are as some admit only an option after all others have failed, such as after enforcement and ‘engagement’ with those responsible for the nuisance or crime. For instance in Brighton, the city council in 2016 introduced PSPOs in 12 parks and open spaces, including the Brighton and Hove seafront (picture by Mark Rowe, 2015; a homeless man in a storm shelter on the front at Brighton) prohibiting fly tipping, littering, camping and lighting a fire among other things.

Some PSPOs cover car cruising, long a bugbear in some retail parks and industrial estates with roads and car parking suitable for such gatherings; for example in Trafford Park in Manchester. And in Nottinghamshire, Ashfield District Council on December 19 began a consultation period towards a PSPO to tackle car cruising around junction 27 of the M1, besides to add urinating in public to an earlier order, and renew its Dog Control Orders, and Designated Public Protection Order. At a recent Cabinet meeting, Councillor Nicolle Ndiweni, Portfolio Holder for Safer and Stronger Communities, said: “Car Cruising in these areas has been a significant problem for a number of years. The enforcement of the current injunction has been successful and has helped to reduce car cruising and thus improve public safety.” That injunction obtained by Nottinghamshire County Council prohibits car cruising at M1 J27 and the Hucknall bypass, the A611; but expires in January 2018. After consultation a PSPO (also covering Sherwood business park) could come into force in February 2018.

In December, Rhondda Council cabinet members discussed a proposed PSPO, to control alcohol-related anti-social behaviour across the County Borough, which would include the introduction of two defined exclusion zones in Aberdare and Pontypridd town centres. The Welsh council is to undertake an eight-week consultation

Councillor Rhys Lewis, Deputy Cabinet Member for Prosperity and Well-being, said: “The council is committed to tackling the issues that residents tell us are significant problems, and is not afraid to introduce new powers through PSPOs … We’ve recently seen the successful introduction of a new PSPO to tackle dog fouling, following residents’ call to action. Now, Cabinet has agreed to consult upon new measures to tackle alcohol-related anti-social behaviour – again following the public’s views and evidence suggesting it’s a significant problem.

“One of the major priorities for the Rhondda Cynon Taf Community Safety Partnership is Safer Town Centres, through which a crime perception survey is carried out annually in Aberdare and Pontypridd Town Centres. In the 2016-17 survey, 27pc of people saw alcohol as the biggest cause of crime and disorder within the towns, while numerous comments supporting this view were made. Therefore, the need for Aberdare and Pontypridd to be subject to more stringent controls than the rest of the County Borough was highlighted, which is why the alcohol exclusion zones have been put forward.”

In December 2017 the Home Office brought out updated ‘statutory guidance’ to replace the first guidance to go with the 2014 Act, in July 2014. It stresses that the authorities – police, local government, and social landlords – ought to ‘put the victims first’: “The legal tests that govern the use of the anti-social behaviour powers are focused on the impact that the behaviour is having, or is likely to have, on victims and communities.“ As is current in policing generally, the authorities are expected to work in terms of the harm the ASB is causing (or the potential harm). The guidance covers besides PSPOs other powers such as criminal behaviour orders (that replaced the Labour Government of the 2000s’ ASBOs) and civil injunctions, and dispersal and closure powers.

According to the guidance, a PSPO has to be against something (behaviour or activity) that has ‘a detrimental effect on the quality of life’, is unreasonable, and persistent. Any restriction due to the PSPO has to be (like CCTV surveillance according to the Surveillance Camera Commissioner) ‘proportionate’.

Campaigners for the homeless have complained that PSPOs might criminalise people for sleeping rough. The guidance says that the orders ‘should not be used to target people based solely on the fact that someone is homeless or rough sleeping‘, even if councils receive complaints about homeless people. The guidance adds: “Councils should also consider measures that tackle the root causes of the behaviour, such as
the provision of public toilets.”

Another criticism of PSPOs is that they may criminalise harmless behaviour, such as young people hanging around. On that point the guidance asks councils not to “inadvertently restrict everyday sociability in public spaces”.

Any order is all very well, but it’s only as useful as the enforcement. On that point the guidance says that police including (private security or council or other) officers accredited under the community safety accreditation scheme can enforce orders, such as ask for the names and addresses of people breaching an order.

For the guidance in full visit the Home Office website:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/670180/2017-12-13_ASB_Revised_Statutory_Guidance_V2_0.pdf

A PSPO, under section 59 of the 2014 Act, means restrictions and requirements can be placed on an area where activities have or are likely to have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of local people. Breach of a PSPO is a criminal offence and can be punished by a fixed penalty notice (for over-18s), or prosecution. A PSPO can last for up to three years before it has to be renewed by a council.


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