South Yorkshire councils given new guidance on anti-social behaviour powers after 'busybody' concerns
Powers to crack down on anti-social behaviour must be used 'proportionately', councils have been told, following warnings some were adopting a 'busybody' approach.
Public Spaces Protection Orders were among several key measures introduced under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to help police and local authorities tackle public nuisances.
The orders allow certain activities can be banned within a defined area, where it is causing distress or alarm, with anyone flouting the regulations liable to be fined or prosecuted.
Doncaster Council recently introduced one prohibiting people from begging or drinking on streets within the town centre, and businesses in Sheffield have called on their council to consider following suit to address what they describe as 'aggressive begging'.
But some charities have voiced concerns about the powers being used to unfairly target people including buskers, sleepers and even groups gathering to chat in town centres.
The Home Office has now drawn up new guidelines, which have been issued to police and councils, on how the powers should be used,
"Given that these orders can restrict what people can do and how they behave in public spaces, it is important that the restrictions imposed are focused on specific behaviours and are proportionate to the detrimental effect that the behaviour is causing or can cause, and are necessary to prevent it from continuing, occurring or recurring," they are advised.
The Government said the guidance puts greater emphasis on the need to ensure powers within the act are used to target specific nuisance behaviours and not applied in a blanket manner against certain groups.
Victoria Atkins, minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, said:"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 today 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."