Freedom Hotline's blog

New protections for leafleteers from heavy-handed laws

leaflet campaign image The Manifesto Club Campaign Against Leafleting Bans has achieved significant protections for small groups and events, in new statutory guidance published today by Defra.

In our report, Leafleting – A liberty lost? we showed how large numbers of city centres were now leafleting zones, within which people needed to buy a council licence to hand out leaflets.

We supported Lib Dem peer Tim Clement-Jones’ private members bill for the deregulation of leafleting, which would have exempted small cultural and community events from the requirement to buy a licence.

Defra didn’t support the bill, but did recognise that there was a problem, and today has published new guidance for councils, introducing certain important protections for leafleteers.

These protections include:

Cambridge booze ban - barefaced duplicity

Cambridge City council has passed a PSPO banning the drinking of alcohol in public spaces.

It's remarkably unclear how the order will be applied, however. Council leaders and the police insist that it won't be used against families having a nice picnic, and so on - that it will only be used in cases of anti-social behaviour. And yet, council leaders refused an amendment by the Lib Dems, which would have restricted alcohol confiscation to cases of anti-social behaviour.

What is most likely is that the order will be applied against street drinkers, who may or may not be committing anti-social behaviour at the time.

Oxford City Council to ban anything that makes people feel 'uncomfortable'

This is the final week in a consultation by Oxford city council, proposing a ban on various 'anti-social activities' in the city centre (the council is using new 'public spaces protection order' powers, PSPOs, which allow them to ban any activity they judge to have a 'detrimental effect' on the 'quality of life').

These banned activities include: sleeping in toilets, rough sleeping, public drinking, dogs off leads in the city centre, pigeon feeding, 'non-compliant' busking, and 'persistent begging'.

Busker issued with 'community protection notice' banning him from busking

Thomas Mumby, a 28-year old musician in Retford, has been issued with a 'community protection notice' prohibiting him from busking in Retford town centre.

A 'community protection notice' can be issued if a person's behaviour is judged to have a 'detrimental effect' on the 'quality of life' of an area (the notice can be issued by council or police officers, and creates a criminal offence).

Mr Munby is continuing to busk, however, as this is his livelihood. This means a real risk that he will be taken to court.

See a video here of his encounter with the police ; there is a debate on the case on Facebook here.

PSPO Consultations: Stand up against the regulation of public space

The new, dangerously open-ended 'public spaces protection order' powers allow councils to ban any activity which they judge to have a 'detrimental effect' on the 'quality of life' of an area.

Many councils have passed or are planning to bring through these orders (see our list, here).

Below are the currently open consultations for public spaces protection orders.

Please take the time to respond, especially if you live in or visit the area concerned. If councils receive enough critical responses, this will make it much harder for them to bring the measure through.

How have councils used PSPO powers?

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act went live on 20 October.

This included 'public spaces protection orders', which allow councils to ban any activity which they judge to have a 'detrimental effect' on the 'quality of life' of an area.

A Manifesto Club report found that powers would be used to ban rough sleeping, ball games and 'inappropriate dress'. Here is a three-month review of how councils are using these powers...

Boston Council oversteps ASB powers

Boston Council has announced a ban on street drinking, with signs announcing that 'drinking alcohol or carrying it in any open container in this area is PROHIBITED'.

Yet these announcements misrepresent the powers provided in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act. The powers to make 'public spaces protection orders' is extremely broad, but one of the few restrictions is a restriction on a complete ban on alcohol.

The Statutory Guidance accompanying the Act states clearly:

Lincoln Council bans 'intoxicating substances' in city centre

Lincoln city councillors have voted in favour of a ban on 'intoxicating substances'. The policy will go before the council’s executive committee for final ratification on 19 January.

The law is made under new powers contained in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, specifically the 'public spaces protection order' (PSPO) power, which allows local authorities to ban anything which has a 'detrimental effect' on the 'quality of life' of the locality.

New ASB powers of eviction: Our homes are no longer our own

A 22-year old has been evicted from her home in Plymouth, as police used the broad new powers of eviction contained within the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.

The Plymouth Herald reports enthusiastically that new ASB powers mean that somebody can be evicted from their home and asked to leave 'within the hour', if police 'tell the court they reasonably believe that there is, or is likely soon to be, a public nuisance or there is disorder in the vicinity of the premises'.

ASB powers used against motorist meet-ups

Colchester Council is planning a 'public spaces protection order' banning car enthusiasts from gathering in a retail park after 6pm.

This comes after gatherings of hundreds of cars, organised by the East Essex Cruisers. Yet significantly, when police visited previous gatherings, they found that people were 'not doing anything much'; they were looking at each other's cars, some revving their engines or playing music on the car radio. The only offence was the sale of burgers from vans without a licence.

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