Swearing in street to cost £80 fine

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The £80 fixed penalty notices will be issued by Barnsley bobbies and are designed to combat people who use foul language to intimidate, harass or threaten others.

And the scheme could be rolled out to other parts of the county if other areas ask their local bobbies to launch a similar initiative.

The move has been met with criticism from some groups who accused the police of wasting resources at a time when Government funding cuts of £43 million have to be made over the next four years.

But police say the one-month crackdown will make residents and visitors feel safer in Barnsley and encourage more people to visit.

For the whole of June the issue is a ‘policing priority’ in Barnsley town centre and members of the public can report offenders for swearing.

Police stress each case will be dealt with individually, with officers able to issue advice or use ‘enforcement’ powers such as fines to deal with the culprits.

Those who object to their fines will land themselves in court.

South Yorkshire Police and the Barnsley Voice Town Centre Partnership agreed for swearing to be tackled as a policing priority as part of a series of month-long crackdowns aimed at reducing anti-social behaviour in the town.

But Charlotte Linacre, Campaign Manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which campaigns for lower taxes and against wasteful public spending, said: “Of course in some situations swearing can be very unpleasant but police already have powers to intervene where there is a disturbance or threat.

“This new rule looks like a money-making scheme. Instead of plotting new ways to charge the public and use up police time, resources should be focused on real crime fighting.”

Daniel Hamilton, Director of Big Brother Watch - a civil liberties and privacy campaign group - said: “While nobody wants to hear foul language while they’re walking down the street, this proposal goes a step too far. Intimidating behaviour should of course be punished, but it’s important to keep things in proportion.

“The police should spend their time tackling serious anti-social behaviour, not slapping fines on people who utter the odd swear word.”

Police chiefs in Barnsley are keen to stress that not all members of the public will be automatically fined for swearing, but persistent offenders who refuse to heed advice will be hit in the pocket.

Inspector Julie Mitchell said: “The language has to be used in a context where people feel threatened, abused or insulted or the language has to have been targeted to cause harassment - this is not about those who utter the odd swear word.

“My team of officers and PCSOs deal with public order incidents day in day out. This is not new legislation, it’s just that Barnsley Voice want us to tackle anti-social behaviour, including poor language.

“We will take whatever action is appropriate looking at the seriousness and circumstances of incidents.

“This is about raising awareness of an issue. The police listen to community groups who decide what policing priorities should be and what they want officers to focus on. It will be up to other individual areas if they want to do something similar to this.”