The Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act includes a swathe of unprecedentedly open-ended powers, which significantly undermine rights in public spaces.

The Manifesto Club is focusing on 'Public Spaces Protection Orders' (PSPOs), which give local authorities the power to ban any activity they judge to have a 'detrimental effect' on the 'quality of life' of a locality.

We also have grave concerns about many of the other powers - including dispersal orders and Community Protection Notices - which have the potential to be used against buskers, protesters or anybody the police or council officials don't like the look of.


Over the past 10 years, public spaces have become increasingly policed by unaccountable officials bearing open-ended powers.

On-the-spot fines mean that police and other officials can punish people for a series of offences ‘on-the-spot’, without legal checks and balances. Criminal offences that would have been tried in court are now often dealt with like a parking ticket.

On-the-spot fines have been running at around 200,000 a year since they were introduced in 2004. Now ‘out of court’ punishments make up nearly half of all offences ‘brought to justice’.

The result has been arbitrary punishments for perfectly innocent activities. A woman was fined for feeding the ducks (‘littering’), as was a man who dropped a £10 note. One Women’s Institute group received threats of fines for putting up a poster (‘fly posting’), and handing out leaflets (‘unlicensed leafleting’), while others have been fined for putting up lost cat posters. A number of political protesters were issued with penalty notices for ‘harassment’, including an anti-CCTV campaigner who handed out leaflets to his neighbours.

A new Manifesto Club campaign against ‘pavement injustice’ will take on unaccountable officials in public spaces – investigating how powers are being used, and calling for their review and limitation. We want to defend the principle that justice is done properly in the courtroom, rather than on-the-spot by a badged busybody. And that law-abiding citizens should be able to use public spaces freely, without risking censure for feeding the ducks.


It has become almost impossible to hand out leaflets in many town and city centres. Local councils including Brighton, Leicester and Leeds have introduced leafleting zones, within which you have to pay a fee (and often wear a badge) if you want to flyer. These rules have been catastrophic for grassroots organisations, including village halls, comedy clubs and nightclubs, who rely on leafleting to inform local people about their events.

This campaign defends the right to leaflet as one of the key civic freedoms. We call for a review of councils' no-tolerance policies - and for a new regime that recognises people's right to leaflet as essential for a free and vibrant civic life.

TAKE ACTION: Sign a petition against leafleting bans if you live in Oxford or Brighton

See our article about leafleting bans on Open Democracy


Mayor of London Boris Johnson has claimed the banning of alcohol on the London Tube as one of the great successes of his first 100 days in office. But it isn't just Boris - and it isn't just London. There has been a creeping introduction of alcohol bans in public spaces all around the UK - and throughout many other countries, from town centres in the Czech Republic, to beaches in New Zealand, Australia and the USA.

The Manifesto Club has launched a campaign Against the Booze Bans and the Hyperregulation of Public Space.


The Home Office recently introduced new restrictions on international artists and academics visiting the UK for talks, temporary exhibitions, concerts or artists' residencies. Visitors now have to submit to a series of arduous and expensive proceedures to get their visa, and then more bureaucratic controls when they are in the UK. Already a series of concerts and residencies have been cancelled.

The Manifesto Club is coordinating a campaign against these regulations. The campaign is led by Manick Govinda, artists' adviser at Artsadmin, and has won support from artists, musicians, gallery directors, academics and students. Together we call for these parochial and suspicious regulations to be reconsidered, and affirm the vital contribution made by global artists and scholars to UK cultural and intellectual life.

For full details and to get involved, see the Visiting artists and academics page.

The Case Against Vetting logoTHE CASE AGAINST VETTING

The vetting of adults in the name of child protection is out of control. Those now being vetted include 16-year-olds teaching younger kids to read, parents volunteering at school, and foster carers’ friends. Running an after-school club is now subject to more stringent security tests than selling explosives.

The Manifesto Club is campaigning against UK legislation like the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill, which institutionalises distrust. We have produced a number of reports on this issue, arguing for a commonsense approach to child protection that recognises that value of informal interaction between the generations.

For full details and to get involved, see the Case Against Vetting page.


A new report, by Pauline Hadaway, director of Belfast Exposed gallery, reveals the growing restriction of citizen photography. Policing the Public Gaze: The Assault on Citizen Photography shows that although there is no overarching ban, there has been a creeping restriction of everyday photography - by community safety wardens, private security guards, and self-appointed ‘jobsworths’. This ranges from children being told that they can only take photos of particular parts of the body, to sports clubs told they should remove all photos of kids from their websites. Hadaway argues that it is important that people are able to take spontaneous photographs of public life, whether of children or any other contemporary touchy subjects: 'We need to stop this self-censorship.'

Download a print or screen version of the report.