New laws 'open to abuse of power'
Proposed anti-social behaviour laws are open to abuse of power and could be used by councils to create new crimes ranging from spitting to homelessness, a think-tank has warned.
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing bill, which featured in the Queen's Speech earlier this month, includes powers to ban certain activities from designated areas.
The Manifesto Club claims these Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) are more wide-ranging than the powers they will replace while including fewer checks on their use leaving them open to exploitation.
Josie Appleton, Manifesto Club director, said:"There is widespread evidence of the over-use of existing powers, which are already too broad and have been employed unjustly to interfere with law-abiding individuals.
"The danger posed by these new powers is substantially greater. We believe that the Government has underestimated the potential for abuse of these powers and failed to introduce sufficient checks and balances."
As currently drafted, the PSPOs could be used by councils for actions including banning spitting, banning homeless or young people from parks, banning begging or rough sleeping and banning smoking in outdoor public places, the group warned.
It also claimed that PSPOs have fewer legal or democratic checks and require less public consultation than alcohol-control zones or dog-control zones.
The orders can also be directed at particular groups, the think-tank says, raising the possibility of discrimination.
Ms Appleton added: "No doubt some local authorities would use these new powers proportionately, but we can be sure that others would not.
"Public Space Protection Orders urgently need to be subjected to additional checks and limitations to ensure that they are used proportionately and do not interfere with the rights of those who use public spaces."