Oxford City Council has shelved plans to ban beggars and buskers from its city centre after being issued with legal papers by human rights lobbyists Liberty.
The authority announced yesterday it would defer a decision to apply a Public Spaces Protection Order in order to review a legal opinion commissioned by the pressure group.
According to a copy of the opinion, seen by LGC, the order would be “unlawful” if adopted in its current form.
It claims that legal conditions councils must meet before imposing such orders had not been met and that Oxford had failed to comply with Equality Act duties.
The opinion, prepared by Jason Coppel – a QC who has previously acted for Whitehall departments – claims the draft order would allow a “disproportionate interference” with multiple human rights.
“If adopted in the form proposed [the order] would criminalise…’persistent begging’…remaining in a public toilet without proper excuse, including ‘using a public toilet to sleep in’ and busking other than in accordance with the council’s code of conduct for busking”.
It adds: “In summary, our conclusion is that there is a strong case that the draft PSPO would if adopted by unlawful”.
Oxford City Council announced it was deferring the decision in a statement released yesterday – the day its executive was due to consider the order.
“Council leader Bob Price (Lab) has asked officers to withdraw the report to today’s city executive board so consideration can be given to the legal opinion provided by Liberty.”
It adds: “We received Liberty’s comments this morning and it is responsible of us to take the proper time to consider the use of these new powers and what Liberty has to say.”
A further report would be brought before the executive board after the authority was “confident that relevant concerns have been properly addressed”, the statement adds.
“Oxford City Council has been at the forefront of the national debate on PSPOs,” the statement continued.
“We have been trying to balance the very real problems of nuisance behaviour in our city centre with the rights of individuals.”
The deferral follow’s Oxford’s decision last month to ditch a provision – appearing in an earlier order – to ban rough sleeping.