Protests over public space protection orders

Campaigners against PSPOs
Campaigners against PSPOs

Protesters opposing new legislation to fine the homeless sparked a loud debate outside Brighton Town Hall last week.

The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) came into effect in 12 areas on January 1 this year, including Preston Park, Wild Park and the seafront.

Protestors outside Brighton Town Hall

Protestors outside Brighton Town Hall

The PSPOs, which began to be enforced from April 1, cover anti-social activities in the areas including people living in vehicles and tents, driving on the grass, defecating, lighting fires and fly-tipping.

Gary Birdsall, a spokesperson for Say No to PSPO, said: “PSPO are a set of laws that are solely an attempt to eradicate some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

“The councillors who support it should be shown towards new occupations and maybe towards some counselling – the irony.”

Defending the order in Thursday’s Full Council meeting (April 6), councillor Gill Mitchell said it had been put in place to subdue anti-social behaviour and help Brighton residents enjoy parks and other recreational grounds.

Cllr Mitchell further stated that it was not instated to target any specific group of people.

Many who oppose the introduction of the new law have drawn comparisons with ‘social cleansing’, saying it violates Section 3 and 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

These sections state all legislation passed through a court must comply with all the regulations of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Campaigners say most travellers and homeless members of the community won’t have the means to pay the £75 fine, meaning they will be prosecuted.

Mr Birdsall, quoting American comedian Bill Hicks, said: “The council want to keep us separate, and present an image of a world filled with unresolvable problems, that they, and only they might one day, somewhere in the never-arriving future, be able to solve.

“They are trying to take away your possessions and where you live.”

In response Cllr Mitchell said: “The PSPOs won’t override civil liberties or welfare needs of minorities.”

The regulation comes at a time when the number of rough sleepers in the city has risen from 44 in 2004 to 144 at the end of 2016.

Defending the anti-PSPO petition signed by 5,000 Brighton residents, convenor of the Green councillors Phelim Mac Cafferty said: “There is zero evidence the PSPOs will cut or prevent anti-social behaviour.

“They are a counter-productive measure with no policy regulations, only guidance.”