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Plans for Ipswich public protection orders will 'criminalise behaviour that is not a crime' objectors warn

PUBLISHED: 10:36 16 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:36 16 July 2018

a homeless person sleeping in a doorway

a homeless person sleeping in a doorway

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Concerns have been raised that plans to introduce additional policing powers in Ipswich will be "criminalising behaviours that are not in themselves a crime".

Oliver Holmes said it would criminalise behaviour that is not a crime Picture: SIMON PARKEROliver Holmes said it would criminalise behaviour that is not a crime Picture: SIMON PARKER

Ipswich Borough Council’s executive last week agreed to launch a public consultation on extending public space protection orders (PSPOs) in the town.

Currently, the order only applies to street drinking, but proposals were put forward to extend this to gangs loitering, use of drugs and legal highs in public, anti-social vehicle use, defecating in public and dog fouling.

But concerns have been raised that the orders could be used inappropriately on groups and families, or could be used to target homeless people.

Oliver Holmes, Ipswich borough councillor for the St Margaret’s ward spoke at the executive meeting to raise the issue.

David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said a balance needed to be struck Picture: IBCDavid Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said a balance needed to be struck Picture: IBC

Mr Holmes said the orders were to cover the whole of Ipswich, when problems were only seen in specific areas, describing it as “totally disproportionate”.

He added: “The other general point is it is criminalising behaviours that are not in themselves a crime”.

A group of people could be asked to stop doing something by a police officer, PCSO or park warden, and if that group failed to comply could be issued a penalty under the orders, regardless of whether their activity was criminal or not, Mr Holmes said.

PSPOs have emerged as a controversial subject in some areas after a number of local authorities used them to move on homeless people or issue them fines.

But Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere moved to dispel fears, and said the powers would be used responsibly.

“These powers can be controversial – some [areas] are looking to target people who have been sleeping rough and there has been a public backlash against that,” he said.

“I think we are striking a balance with what we are putting forward.

He added: “I think it is right we do make it easier to enable the police in particular to carry out enforcement action.”

Mr Ellesmere that it would not be used to move rough sleepers on as “the good work Help our Homeless is doing could well be jeopardised”.

The consultation gets underway this summer, with findings expected to be reported back in the autumn for a final decision.

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