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PSPO: Somerset council scraps rules

PSPO: Somerset council scraps rules

Image: LDRS

Legislation designed to curb the use of alcohol and legal highs in several Somerset town centres has been scrapped.

Public space protection orders (PSPOs) were introduced under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, and allow councils to restrict certain behaviours in a given area to tackle “nuisance or problem behaviour”.

PSPOs governing Minehead, Taunton, Watchet and Wellington town centres have been in effect for several years, but recently lapsed.

Somerset West and Taunton Council said it would not be renewing the orders, and will instead be working with the police to take “a more flexible approach to enforcement” using other legislation.

The PSPO governing Taunton and Wellington, which was introduced in July 2015, allows the police and council officers to compel individuals to surrender any alcohol and legal highs they have on their person within the town centre.

The PSPO governing Minehead and Watchet, which began in May 2017, has the same powers but only applies to alcohol.

Councillor Chris Booth, portfolio holder for community, laid out the reasons for not renewing the orders in a decision published on the council’s website.

He said: “This is a joint decision between the police and the council. This is supported within the police by the district commander, superintendent Mike Prior and the three neighbourhood beat sergeants covering these areas.

“The police operate on intelligence and community-based policing. They respond to incidents in the moment of course, but they also gather intelligence on hotspots and work with the local community to understand need.

“These are then actively targeted as part of a patrol plan and matters are regularly reviewed. They also have other powers that can be used which will amount to the same effect as the PSPOs were intended to have.”

Mr Booth – who represents the Halcon and Lane ward within Taunton – said there were other powers already available to the police which would prove effective in tackling issues in Somerset’s town centres.

He said: “PSPOs ban specific activities in specific locations. There is the possibility of issuing a fixed penalty notice, but the reality is that has not been the case.

“However, there are two things that can be and are being done to tackle this in a different way.

“The Young Persons (Confiscation of Alcohol) Act gives a police officer the power to remove alcohol from anyone under the age of 18 with an open container in the street, so that can be an effective route for under-18s.

“In order to target persistent adults, a community protection warning and a community protection notice can be issued. These are specifically designed to tackle undesirable behaviour of various types and are therefore not limited in the same way that a PSPO is.

“The police and the council feel that this is a more flexible approach to enforcement that will better serve our communities.”

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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