Homeless in Hackney, a Young Person in Bassetlaw : Beware Social Cleansing Cometh

Ta to scepticalcubefarm.wordpress.com
Ta to scepticalcubefarm.wordpress.com

Homelessness, freedom and why we should resist the social cleansing of Hackney

See this article in Open Democracy by Guy Aitchinson.

Hackney council is using new laws to try and cleanse homeless people from its more fashionable corners. Under the rubric of public “safety”, the lived reality of London, with its poverty and inequality, is being swept under the carpet.

The visibility of the homeless at least serves to remind us of their existence and force us to interrogate whether we are prepared to tolerate a society marred by such inequalities. If more local authorities adopt PSPO’s – as many no doubt plan to – then many people who lack secure, basic shelter will have nowhere to go, completing our return to a pre-Victorian regime of social discipline where the lower orders were kept permanently mobile, shunted from town to town by a punitive system of anti-vagrancy laws.

Notably, Oxford Council were forced to back down on a ban on rough sleeping in the face of widespread public revulsion. A petition has been started in Hackney with over 70,000 signatures, while local renters group are encouraging people to write to their councillors and promising a wave of direct action. Other groups are organizing in the city to promote rent strikes and resistance to the social cleansing of the capital. It is time to reclaim our rights to the city and fight this draconian policing of public space. The city belongs to all of us, not just financers and developers.

We expressed our concern last year about the ways in which the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act could be used against young people simply gathering together on the streets.

Bassetlaw District Council has just created the following PSPO: ‘The new order prohibits shouting, swearing or acting in a manner as to cause annoyance, harassment, alarm or distress to any person- and also means that 16 year olds will not be permitted to gather in the vicinity in groups of three or more.’

This will make it a crime for an under 16 year old to gather in a group in the defined public space !!!!

It’s worth reminding ourselves of the powers. Thanks to the Manifesto Club for the summary.

Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO)

  • Local authorities can ban any activity they judge to have a ‘detrimental effect’ on the ‘quality of life’ in a locality;
  • No requirement for public consultation;
  • Violation is a criminal offence;
  • PSPO can be passed by a single council officer or committee;
  • Punished by £100 on-the-spot fine, or prosecution;
  • Enforced by police, council officers or private contractors.

Dispersal powers

  • A person can be ordered to leave an area for up to 48 hours if judged to be ‘committing or likely to commit anti-social behaviour’;
  • Issued by police officers or Police Community Support Officers;
  • No requirement that the area be designated a dispersal zone in advance;
  • Officer can specify the route for person to leave and can confiscate any item ‘that could be used to commit anti-social behaviour’;
  • Violation is a criminal offence, up to level 4 fine and 3 months in prison.

Civil injunctions (replace ASBOs)

  • Injunction can be issued if person ‘has engaged or threatens to engage in anti-social behaviour’;
  • Issued in Magistrate’s Court, on application by state agency (eg, council, police, NHS Protect, Environment Agency);
  • Injunction can require the individual to do specified things, or not to do specified things, for the purpose of preventing the individual ‘from engaging in anti-social behaviour’;
  • Anti-social behaviour is defined as behaviour causing ‘harassment, alarm and distress’ (outside of social housing); or in social housing, as behaviour causing ‘nuisance and annoyance’;
  • Case proven on balance of probabilities;
  • Violation is civil offence, prosecuted as contempt of court which carries an unlimited fine and maximum two years’ prison sentence.

Community Protection Notice (CPN)

  • CPN can be issued if the conduct of an individual or body is judged to have a ‘detrimental effect’ on the ‘quality of life of those in the locality’;
  • CPN can require people to stop doing specified things or to do specified things;
  • Can be issued by council and police officers;
  • Officers can seize items ‘used in the commission of the offence of failing to comply with a CPN’, such as ‘sound-making equipment’;
  • Issuing of notice must be proceeded by warning, either written or a ‘pre-agreed form of words’ that can be used by the officer on the spot;
  • Violation is a criminal offence;
  • Punished by £100 on-the-spot fine, or by prosecution.

Any news/thoughts from youth workers still working on the streets?

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