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Human rights organisation speaks out against council's public order plans

PUBLISHED: 16:12 12 November 2015 | UPDATED: 16:12 17 November 2015

Gravesend Town Centre

Gravesend Town Centre

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Liberty, were speaking out against the Gravesham council's public space protection order

Human rights organisation Liberty, also known as the National Council for Civil Liberties, have called a public space protection order planned by Gravesham council as “unlawful”.

The statement comes as the council’s public consultation on the order closes this week on November 15.

The order, proposed restrictions on rough sleepers and begging, among other things, would see local police officers have the power to issue on-the-spot penalties of up to £100.

A consultation on the order began last month, giving the public the opportunity to respond to plans that aim to clamp down on antisocial behaviour.

Behaviour targeted in the consultation as well rough sleeping included cycling, busking, street drinking and legal highs.

In a letter written by Liberty legal officer Rosie Brighouse, the group have highlighted potential human rights issues surrounding the proposals, describing the PSPO as a “blunt instrument” that “cannot help tackle the causes of homelessness.”

She said: “Slapping the most impoverished in society with unaffordable fines does nothing to address the underlying causes of poverty – it simply pushes the vulnerable and destitute into the criminal justice system and a downward spiral of debt.

“We hope the Council will carefully consider our letter and the other consultation responses – and then abandon these deeply misguided plans.”

Councillor Samir Jassal responded: “There are support schemes for people who are homeless, this order’s main aim is to tackle behaviours such as public drinking.

“I suppose there is a risk of people moving to outer areas, but hopefully this order will help people get on the straight and narrow.

“We need to see a wider range of information across the borough informing people of how to deal with nuisance behaviour, this is only the first step in a programme tackling such behaviour in the borough.”

Ms Brighouse highlighted the importance of the public’s response, following the consultation’s closure last Sunday.

“Most people usually would not consider rough sleeping as an anti-social behaviour, I hope that people in the local area have responded in an informed manner.”

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