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Revised guidance tells councils to use PSPOs only for genuinely anti-social behaviour

Homeless 5515836 s 146x219The Home Office has issued revised statutory guidance for the police and councils on the use of powers in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, saying the changes would make sure these tools are used only to tackle behaviour which is genuinely anti-social.

It added that the revised guidance, which can be viewed here, would “help to prevent instances of rough sleepers, buskers or small groups gathering to chat in town centres - without causing a nuisance - being unfairly targeted”.

The Home Office said it was responding to feedback from charities and other groups which had raised concerns that public space protection orders (PSPOs) in particular were being used to disproportionately target certain groups in some areas rather than focusing on behaviour that was genuinely anti-social and causing others distress or alarm.

The statutory guidance has been changed to put greater emphasis on the need to ensure PSPOs are used to target specific nuisance behaviours and are not applied in a blanket way against specific groups or behaviour that is not in itself anti-social.

“It reminds councils that powers should not, for example, target normal everyday behaviour that is not having a detrimental effect on the community’s quality of life, such as standing in groups in a town centre,” the Home Office said.

Elements of the guidance include:

  • focusing on specific and actual problems rather than blanket bans of behaviour that are not in themselves anti-social – such as rough sleeping
  • reiterating that before making a PSPO councils must consult the police and community representatives to ensure specific groups have the opportunity to comment, including the local residents' association, regular park users and those involved in activities such as busking
  • highlighting how the Civil Injunction and the Criminal Behaviour Order can be used to tackle gang activity
  • underlining the importance of local consultation, accountability and transparency in decision making

Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins said: “Anti-social behaviour harms communities and can severely impact people’s way of life, which is why this government introduced powers to make it quicker and easier to take action against the perpetrators of anti-social behaviour.

“We know that these powers are being used to very good effect by the police and local councils across England and Wales, and we are very keen to encourage their continued use. But we are also clear that the powers should be used proportionately to tackle anti-social behaviour, and not to target specific groups or the most vulnerable in our communities.

“The revised guidance published will empower local agencies by providing even greater clarity on where and when these powers should be applied, helping them to keep our public spaces, communities and families safe.”


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