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
PSPOs 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.
fwiw, there’s a petition to sign…