Although the idea of banning certain people or activities from public space is common practice in the United States, the United Kingdom has thus far managed to avoid such draconian measures for the regulation of its publicly owned spaces. Parliament, however, is currently considering a law that “greatly expands powers for state authorities to control who can do what in public space,” writes Josie Appleton.
The law experienced a setback earlier this month, when the Lords rejected parts of the law, but opposition groups are still concerned that the remainder of the bill might pass. Appleton voices their concerns: “When the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill becomes law in a few weeks, we can say that there is no longer such a thing as public space proper in Britain.”
Appleton details some of the powers made possible by the new law:
—“‘Injunctions for the Prevention of Nuisance and Annoyance’ under which anybody whose activity could cause ‘nuisance and annoyance’ to ‘any other person’ can be issued with an injunction prohibiting them from this activity or imposing positive conditions upon them. This ‘annoyance’ definition is so broad that it could catch most things people do in public space – after all, busking, preaching, protesting, wearing certain clothes, singing etc, all annoy somebody.”
—“‘Public Space Protection Orders’ (PSPOs) will mean that local authorities can ban activities which they believe have a ‘detrimental effect’ on the ‘quality of life’ of the area. Again, this could catch almost anything…Worse, it is a summary power meaning the authority doesn’t have to consult the public and can be targeted at particular groups.”