Published: 12:09, 19 June 2019
| Updated: 12:11, 19 June 2019
Councillors are expected to finalise tonight how new anti-social behaviour crackdown measures will be enforced across the district set to be activated tonight.
Cabinet and Overview and Scrutiny Committee members are set to rubber-stamp the wording and protocols attached to the new Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) in meetings this week.
In March, Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) cabinet agreed to bring seven measures into force from this month, including tighter restrictions on homeless sleeping, begging and busking.
An existing PSPO aimed at tackling drinking, rough sleeping and begging had already been in place in parts of Folkestone, Cheriton, Seabrook and Sandgate, but among the new project plans, the authority also hopes to make camping and taking alcohol and drugs an offence in certain areas.
PSPOs were created by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and make predefined activities within a mapped area prosecutable.
Those in breach could face a £100 fine, or prosecution and possible £1,000 penalty if the first payment isn’t made.
Council documents say the order will come in force from today (Wednesday June 19) and the maximum duration is three years, but they can last for shorter periods where appropriate.
The order will be reviewed within three years and the first year will be used as a 'test and learn phase', to enable authorised officers to establish 'working protocols' on behaviour which is deemed to be anti-social.
The literature from the meeting agendas includes an extensive list of possible agencies that could be brought in to help with cases, including Kent Police, housing support and social services.
It also adds preventative actions including foot patrols, signage, awareness programmes and conferences, and action tasking to the weekly Community Safety Unit meeting could also be used, while situations will be assessed on a 'case by case' basis.
Limits on ‘chugging’ also form part of the scheme, which went out for an eight week public consultation earlier this year.
However FHDC, which has issued five notices since introducing PSPOs in 2015, said broadening the new measures is not intended to focus on homeless people.
A FHDC spokesman previously said: “The existing PSPO prohibits rough sleeping and we are proposing to remove that, to focus on the behaviours that impact the lives of our residents. A PSPO and any resulting Fixed Penalty Notice is not about making money – nor cleansing the streets - but is one tool to tackle the issues that residents tell us are causing them problems.”
They added: “If we do issue a Fixed Penalty Notice and someone cannot pay, or believes they should not have received it, they have the opportunity to appear before magistrates, where we will seek a positive outcome via a court-imposed order to engage with support services.”
The council is set to finalise and bring in the new PSPOs to tackle antisocial behaviour tonight.
Liberty lawyer Rosie Brighouse, who specialises in PSPOs and their affects on homelessness, previously said the council was 'airbrushing the streets': “The council’s proposed PSPO will punish some of the district’s most vulnerable people and make it impossible for any homeless person seeking shelter from the elements to avoid breaking the law.
“Rough sleeping and begging are born of desperation, not criminal intent, but these plans wrongly equate poverty with antisocial behaviour, flying in the face of government guidance.
“These orders can do nothing to alleviate hardship – they can only slap people with fines they can’t possibly afford, pushing them into the criminal justice system.
“This is particularly cruel law-making in one of the most deprived areas in the region - it must be stopped."
But a public consultation involving 400 respondents revealed 'overwhelming public support' for the scheme, according to the council.
The matter was discussed at the Overview and Scrutiny meeting last night, and will go to Cabinet tonight, when a final decision will be made.