Freedom Hotline's blog

Campaigners told to get insurance to hand out leaflets in Woking

The Manifesto Club is supporting members of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, who have been prevented from handing out leaflets in Woking Town Centre.

They were told that they must gain prior approval from the council, and submit the leaflets they wish to distribute.

They were also told that they must get public liability insurance before distributing leaflets.

Both of these requests are based on the council's Public Realm Usage Policy. Both are also entirely unjustified, and have no legal basis.

Members of the group wrote a letter to Woking News, outlining their position (see the letter here).

Birmingham to ban microphones in the city centre

If this PSPO goes though it will be a crime to protest with megaphones in Birmingham city centre.

It will also be a crime to play violin, acoustic guitar or flute with amplification.

That is, the city centre - including the law courts, police station, and council house - will be an area within which amplification of all kinds is prohibited.

The council says it has been 'inundated' with complaints about noise: I would like to know how many complaints they have received.

PSPO news: Bans on skateboarding, loitering, remote control cars, pigeon feeding

Councils have brought in a series of PSPOs since our March briefing.

Some of these orders target activities that are already crimes - such as urinating and defecating in public - which is likely to be an issue of being able to punish with spot-fines rather than court.

Others include specific activities - remote control cars, skateboarding - regardless of whether these are causing a problem.

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:

Oxford Council: don't criminalise begging/busking tonight!

As things stand, it is likely that Oxford Council will tonight enact a PSPO (public spaces protection order), creating a series of new criminal offences in the city centre.

The new offences include:

  • A new crime of ‘non-compliant busking’. This means that a busker playing in the wrong spot or for longer than an hour would be committing a criminal offence: they could receive an £100 on-the-spot fine, or £1000 fine on conviction.
  • It will be a crime to beg ‘on more than one occasion’ in the city centre. This means that homeless people in Oxford will be committing an offence if they accept money from members of the public. They could receive a £100 on-the-spot fine, or up to £1000 fine on conviction.
  • Other new offences include: ‘remaining in a public toilet without reasonable excuse’, specifically including sleeping in toilets; pavement art of all kinds (‘any form of art/drawing which is applied directly onto any highway or pavement’).

Criminalising youth sociability in public spaces

Bassetlaw District Council has just created the following PSPO: 'The new order prohibits shouting, swearing or acting in a manner as to cause annoyance, harassment, alarm or distress to any person- and also means that 16 year olds will not be permitted to gather in the vicinity in groups of three or more.'

This will make it a crime for an under 16 year old to gather in a group in the defined public space. This amounts to criminalising teenage sociability.

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.

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