The 'Busybodies' Charter' represents the most draconian and unchecked power ever given to officials in the UK. Now the government is planning to extend it further, including giving the police power to write their own laws. We need you to join us in the fight against it.
Why we must fight this extension of police power
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 allows officials to issue legal orders without the normal checks and balances. These orders - called 'Community Protection Notices' and 'Public Spaces Protection Orders' - have been subject to massive abuse.
Pensioners have been ordered to stop feeding the birds in their own gardens, people have been banned from looking at their neighbours, an 82-year-old woman was banned from wearing a bikini in her garden, homeless people have been barred from their part of town, several councils have banned people from standing in groups in public spaces.
Now, the government's new ASB Action Plan will dramatically increase these powers. Most worryingly, the police will be given the power to write their own laws. Police forces will be able to create new criminal offences in particular areas, which they then enforce - without public consultation.
Penalties for violating 'Public Spaces Protection Orders' and 'Community Protection Notices' will increase by 400% to £500.
Giving the police powers to write their own laws is a dangerous and unprecedented step. They will be able to impose any restrictions that will make their lives easier - whether that is banning rough sleeping or banning young people from standing in groups. Then they will be able to slap people with £500 fines.
To make matters worse, the government also wants to give police and council officers more 'dispersal powers' to move on homeless people, and to ban anyone from public spaces for up to 72 hours.
It also wants to extend Community Protection Notices down to children as young as 10.
Our campaign against the Busybodies' Charter so far
The Manifesto Club has led the fight against the Busybodies' Charter from the beginning.
Each year, we produced the only national FOI data showing how these powers are being used, and we constantly raised the alarm about injustices and abuse of power.
Working with MPs and peers, we managed to convince the Home Office to change the Statutory Guidance to introduce more checks, including recommending that orders should not be issued against vulnerable groups such as the homeless. We also lobbied the Local Government Association to introduce guidance on Public Spaces Protection Orders, which recommended that councils should put their orders to the vote.
For years we have worked with Community Protection Notice recipients, to help publicise their cases and get justice.
We have opposed dozens of Public Spaces Protection Orders, getting many of them reduced or scrapped.
We led the campaign against 'fining for profit', the corrupt practice of private security guards being paid per fine. Defra has agreed to introduce new guidance banning incentivised punishment for litter fines; now we are pushing the Home Office to do the same for PSPOs.
We gained regular publicity (including in national newspapers, the Today Programme, and flagship TV programmes) to put the Busybodies' Charter on the public and political radar, and to give voice to people's experience of injustice.
Our most urgent task is to campaign against the dangerous and draconian extensions of power in the ASB Action Plan (read our response to the plan). This would have a devastating effect on the civil liberties of UK citizens, and multiply the abuse of power. We are determined to stop these measures from going ahead.
We will also continue our efforts to check existing powers and expose injustice. We will:
- Publish guidance for local authorities on issuing Community Protection Notices, to guard against the worst abuses of power. We have been working with CPN recipients and policy experts to develop this guidance, and we think it will make a big difference on the ground.
- Continue to collect annual FOI data showing how these powers are being used by local authorities.
- Publicise cases of people who have been victimised by CPNs, showing the terrible lack of due process and the way in which these orders are ruining people's lives.
Ultimately, we think that the Busybodies' Charter should be scrapped - this is our 'end game'. Shining the spotlight on injustices, and gaining key protections, are steps towards getting rid of this law entirely.
Why we need your help
The 'Busybodies' Charter' has been responsible for so much injustice. Each week, we are contacted by people who received an unfair Community Protection Notice, because a neighbour made malicious accusations or an official had a gripe against them.
The new plans will make matters far worse, and will cross a line in terms of giving the police powers to write their own laws.
Because of our years campaigning on this law, we are best placed to take on these dangerous new measures. We have contacts in parliament and other groups to coordinate the opposition against them.
We urgently need the support of people who care about justice, fairness, and the protection of vulnerable groups and individuals, to help us take on these measures and get them scrapped.
About the powers in the Busybodies' Charter
- Community Protection Notices are personalised legal orders, which can be written out on the spot by police and council officers. The official doesn't need to prove the evidence against you or even talk to you beforehand.
- Public Spaces Protection Orders are legal orders issued by councils restricting activities in public. A single council officer can write this order overnight, without public consultation or showing why restrictions are necessary.
About the Manifesto Club
The Manifesto Club is the civil liberties group that defends freedoms in public spaces, civil society and informal life. We are non-partisan and are supported by people from all parties and none. We produce cutting-edge research on the threats to civic freedoms, and also work with those who have been subject to injustices to make their cases heard.