Currently before the house of lords, and expected to receive royal assent next spring, the anti-social behaviour, crime and policing bill will make behaviour perceived to, or potentially able to, ‘cause nuisance or annoyance’ a criminal offence.
The new law also grants local authorities, police and even private security firms the power to bar citizens from assembling in public places.
The bill claims to simplify the large number of ‘orders’ legislated into existence since the crime and disorder act 1998, which introduced the infamous anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs).
The new bill replaces ASBOs with ‘injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance’ (IPNAs), and ‘public spaces protection orders’ (PSPOs). ‘Dispersal orders’ will replace many of the other orders.
These new powers ‘present the most significant threat to lawful assembly and protest in modern history’, according to the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC).
Under the Bill, PSPOs can be granted for a period of up to three years, and are renewable where persistent, unreasonable activities that have occurred or are likely to occurred in a public place have had or will have ‘a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality’ (clause 55). This is a very subjective test.
For many people, demonstrations or groups of homeless, young or foreign people on the streets are seen as being detrimental to their quality of life.
PSPOs are subject to on-the-spot fines, rather than court attendance, reducing scrutiny of the exercise of police powers.