My name is Penny Schenk. My partner and I have lived in Oxford since 2002, and on a narrowboat since 2011. Despite sounding American, I am a UK citizen, and have worked at the University’s Bodleian Law Library since 2005.
The fact that we were fortunate enough to secure a residential mooring on private property in Oxford, and would not be immediately affected by the proposed PSPO at home has done nothing to allay my extreme disquiet at the possibility of so-called Waterways PSPO’s going into effect here and in other cities across the UK.
The track record of PSPO’s in their short and chequered history is not good. Because the Home Office does not collect data on PSPO’s, it is only through the efforts of the Manifesto Club and their FOI requests that we can get the full picture, and it is not pretty.
PSPO’s put the power to *criminalise* behaviours in the hands of a single council officer. I think you would be hard pressed to find one constituent who thinks that the ability to make an activity a crime, without any statutory necessity for public consultation, is something they want a single council officer to have. And this is not a hypothetical: the Manifesto Club report found that HALF of councils passed a PSPO through a single council officer. To quote the report: “Never has the creation of crimes been attended to with so few procedural requirements…”
So my question to the Council is, are you pleased to be one of the Councils at the forefront of wielding these heavy-handed, ill-conceived instruments against your own citizens, a year after celebrating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta?
Thank you for your attention.
Written Response from Councillor Sinclair
The Council was thorough and considered when deciding whether to introduce the two PSPOs currently in place in Oxford. They are succeeding in tackling the behaviours they were designed to through education and information about what is acceptable behaviour.
Summary of the verbal response given by Councillor Sinclair at the meeting
The existing PSPOs were about preventing anti-social behaviour and decisions were taken by more than one officer and using the correct procedures. The council needed to work within the legislation available.