CONTROVERSIAL restrictions on busking and begging were unanimously approved last night despite concerns they could breach human rights laws.
Senior councillors at Oxford City Council nodded through a new public spaces protection order (PSPO) for the city centre.
It would ban activities including ‘persistent and aggressive begging’, remaining in a public toilet without ‘reasonable excuse’, or busking if it is branded a ‘nuisance’ by council officers or police. They would be punishable by a £100 on-the-spot fine, or a £150 fine at magistrates’ court.
But it has placed the local authority on a collision course with civil rights organisations Liberty, which warned it would consider a legal challenge.
The group said that despite changes to the order since it was delayed in June, it remained “dangerously broad and disproportionate”.
In a letter to the council, Liberty solicitor Rosie Brighouse said: “You cannot properly be satisfied, on the evidence before you, either that it is needed or that it will effectively target the issues you wish to address.
“We urge you not to pursue this measure.”
Liberty says the PSPO is “disproportionate”, the council has not considered existing powers it already has, and there is not enough evidence to show that activities banned by the PSPO hurt residents’ quality of life.
Jeremy Thomas, the council’s head of law and governance, rejected the criticisms.
He said: “ Enforcement will only be carried out by a small number of trained officers applying an existing enforcement code, which promotes the resolution of complaints at the lowest possible level.”
The three-year PSPO approved last night would place restrictions on begging, busking, prolonged use of public toilets, urination or defecation in public, cycling in Queen Street or Cornmarket Street, illegal peddling, drinking alcohol in public and dog fouling.