This map of London shows the dramatic loss of liberty in public space.
In total, there are 435 banned zones in London, within which citizens can be punished for activities that would otherwise be perfectly legal. Together these zones make up around half the area of the capital, and some areas are overlapped by two or three different zones.
Zones are not generally marked with signs, but when you cross these invisible lines your normal freedoms are suspended; you can be punished for things which are not, outside of the zone, an offence.
Within a dog exclusion zone, you can be fined or prosecuted just for walking your dog. Within a no-leafleting zone, you can be fined or prosecuted for handing out leaflets without a licence. In an alcohol confiscation zone, officials can confiscate your alcohol without justification, and arrest or fine you if you refuse. In a dispersal zone, a police officer can order you to leave the area for 24 hours, and it is an offence to return within that period. In a regulated protest zone, it is an offence to use sound amplification equipment.
In short, these zones criminalise perfectly normal and otherwise legal activities – walking a dog, handing out leaflets, protesting, or just being in a particular area. Because the areas are often unmarked, members of the public do not know when they are entering them and can therefore commit an offence unwittingly. There have been several recent cases of pensioners caught out by no-dog zones they did not know about.
Open-ended powers give officials a broad degree of discretion to decide who should and should not be punished. Powers tend to be used disproportionately against certain groups: homeless people in some parts of London have their alcohol confiscated on an almost daily basis; some groups of young people are constantly dispersed or moved on. Discretionary powers violate the fundamental principle that criminal law should be specific, predictable, and apply equally to everyone.
Worryingly, these banned zones are being enforced not only by police, but also by a growing force of unaccountable officials. There are now hundreds of council officials with powers to fine people for unlicensed leafleting or walking dogs in the wrong area. Several London councils also contract private security companies to patrol the streets and issue fines. Under the Accredited Persons Scheme, the Metropolitan Police has given police powers to 221 civilians, including private security guards, transport employees, and hospital staff. These ‘accredited’ officials can demand people’s name and address, confiscate their alcohol, and issue fines.
This map is part of the Manifesto Club’s ‘Pavement Injustice’ campaign, against on-the-spot fines. The map exposes the dramatic extent of banned zones – with the aim of challenging such open-ended powers, and restoring civil rights in public spaces.
Site by Tom Mower
Text by Josie Appleton
Under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, councils can designate areas within which people must buy a licence to hand out leaflets. Leafleteers must fill in a form and pay a fee, and also specify the times of day they will be leafleting, and the material they want to hand out. Political, religious and charitable causes are exempt, although these groups are sometimes wrongfully stopped.
There are 110 leafleting zones in London, in seven different local authorities. Three further local authorities are planning to enact leafleting zones in the near future. Leafleting licence fees can be expensive: £175.40 in Kensington and Chelsea, £49 a day in Haringey, and £250 for each of Hammersmith and Fulham’s eight zones.
Unlicensed leafleting is an offence, subject to prosecution or on-the spot fines issued by council officials or their contractors. In 2011–12, there were 37 fines issued for the offence of ‘unlicensed leafleting’ in London – 32 fines in Hammersmith and Fulham, 1 in Haringey, and 4 in Hillingdon.
Under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, police officers have the power to ask groups of two or more people to leave an area, and not return for 24 hours. Refusal to comply with the terms of this order can lead to arrest and charge.
The officer can use this power if they have ‘reasonable grounds for believing that [the group’s] presence or behaviour has resulted, or is likely to result, in a member of the public being harassed, intimidated, alarmed or distressed’. In addition, the dispersal zone is a de facto curfew zone for young people, who cannot be out unaccompanied between the hours of 9pm and 6am.
Dispersal orders tend to be particularly used with young people, and homeless people. A Joseph Rowntree Foundation report found that dispersal orders ‘potentially criminalise youthful behaviour on the basis of the anxieties that young people congregating in groups may generate among other people’. There are 32 active dispersal zones in London, within which there have been 547 recent orders to disperse.
Under the Dog Control Orders Regulations 2006, councils can designate Dog Exclusion Zones, within which dog walking is banned. Walking your dog in this zone is an offence, punishable by fine or prosecution by council officials or their contractors.
There are currently 219 dog exclusion zones in London. These are all parks or open spaces: we didn’t include children’s playgrounds or sports fields, which have long-standing and accepted restrictions on dogs.
In 2011–12, there were 56 fines for the offence of walking dogs in a no-dog zone in London – 24 in Greenwich, 31 in Islington, and 1 in Camden.
Under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, councils and police forces can designate areas within which alcohol can be confiscated (this area is called a ‘designated public place order’). Alcohol confiscation powers have also been extended to civilians, including private security guards and council officials, under the Police Community Accreditation Scheme.
It is not required that you are behaving in a disorderly manner to have your alcohol confiscated – only that the police officer ‘reasonably believes that a person is, or has been, consuming alcohol [within the designated area] or intends to do so’. Unopened containers can be confiscated. The refusal to surrender alcohol is an offence, punishable with an on-the-spot fine or prosecution.
There are 74 alcohol confiscation zones in London, throughout 32 London boroughs. 14 boroughs have designated the whole borough an alcohol confiscation zone. In 2010, London police and PCSOs issued 663 on-the-spot fines for the offence of ‘drinking in a designated public space’.
Alcohol is often disposed of on the spot and the confiscation is not recorded. In two surveys, Haringey recorded 1027 alcohol seizures in 2010, and Hackney recorded 220 seizures in June 2011. The Metropolitan Police reports that its 221 ‘accredited persons’ took part in 2573 seizures in 2011. These figures suggest thousands of confiscation incidents occur each year.
Under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, it became an offence to take part in a demonstration in the vicinity of Parliament without prior authorisation. A demonstration could involve a single person.
The law was repealed by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. However, this Act introduced new controls, prohibiting the use of ‘amplified noise equipment’ and the possession of ‘sleeping equipment’ in Parliament Square.
In addition, Greater London Authority bylaws make it an offence to make a speech or hold a demonstration in Parliament Square, without having obtained written permission. The bylaw also gives ‘an authorised person’ powers to demand people’s name and address.
New Westminster Council bylaws enable the seizure of ‘sleeping equipment’ and ‘sound equipment’ in a larger area, including Parliament Square, and streets near Downing Street, the Home Office, and the Ministry of Defence.
* Statistics on the number of zones and fines from Manifesto Club Freedom of Information Requests.
|No alcohol zones||No leafleting zones||Dispersal zones||No. of dispersal incidents||Dog exclusion zones|
|Barking & Dagenham||*1||–||–||–||–|
|City of London||–||–||–||–||–|
* = borough-wide uc = under consideration unk = unknown
Of the 74 No Alcohol Zones 14 are borough-wide. The 110 No leafleting Zones apply in 7 boroughs.
Let us know if you would like to set up a local campaign against any of the zones highlighted in this map. We would be delighted to collaborate with you and help in any way possible. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have experienced the effect of these zones, do tell us about the incident, and we can add it to the map and take it up with relevant authorities. Send us the details of what happened, including time and place, to: email@example.com
Manifesto Club Campaign Against Leafleting Bans
Protest against the Leytonstone dispersal zone
Petition against dog restrictions in Highbury Fields
Against protest restrictions in Parliament Square
Protest against Brent council's leafleting ban
Petition against leafleting ban in Leicester Square
Pensioner protesting against dog fines in Newham