Birmingham City Council is the first council in the region to use a public space protection order (PSPO) in a crackdown on anti-social behaviour in Sheldon, Shard End, Gospel Farm in Acocks Green, and Bankside near Springfield.
The order bans:
- the riding a motorcycle or quad bike “antisocially”
- Groups of three or more people from ‘engaging in activities which are likely to cause nuisance, annoyance, harassment, alarm or distress’ including vandalism, littering and threats of violence.
- Alcohol, graffiti and the taking of intoxicating substances
- The wearing of face coverings in an attempt to conceal identity including scarves, balaclavas and masks
Whilst I agree with some of the banned activities that do create real problems for the residents in our communities like the inconsiderate riding of motorcycles and quads, alcohol, graffiti and drug taking which are real problems across many of our Wards, I have real concerns with some of the other activities banned, and that could have serious consequences for some young people.
Each PSPO creates new criminal offence, which can be punished by an on-the-spot fine of up to £100, or a fine upon conviction of up to £1000 and these offences can be determined by a police officer, a PCSO or by an officer of the Council.
How you ‘determine’ anti social activity is subjective and these PSPO’S could result in young people being criminalised merely for standing in a group or wearing a scarf that covers their face. I wear a scarf that covers my mouth and nose in this cold weather; will I be the subject of a PSPO?
The creation of these unnecessary new offences such as ‘causing an annoyance’ is unlikely to increase young people’s respect for the criminal law or public authority. Such behaviour might merit a telling off, not a fine and potential criminal record. Young people will be stigmatised, stereotyped and labelled.
Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe and whilst on the one hand we are working hard to champion the rights of young people it seems that on the other we are creating more and more rules and laws to control and even criminalise our young people. Drawing young people into the criminal justice system will have long lasting and negative affects and as a council, we must look at other options and other ways of tackling ‘problem’ behaviour.