Manchester

Rochdale Council swearing ban is 'misuse of power'

Rochdale Town Hall
Image caption Councillors have also banned begging, skateboarding and other anti-social behaviour

A council's town centre ban on swearing has been labelled a "staggering misuse of power" by a civil liberties group.

Rochdale Council has introduced a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) which includes a ban on swearing, skateboarding and begging.

Lara ten Caten, legal officer for human rights group Liberty, accused the council of curbing residents' rights.

But the authority's leader Richard Farnell said the council was trying to stop "drunken and abusive idiots".

Two other councils, Kettering and Salford, currently have swearing bans as part of their PSPOs, which were introduced in 2014 to cut anti-social behaviour in towns and cities.

'Blunt instruments'

Ms ten Caten said: "These proposals are a staggering misuse of power which would unjustifiably curb the rights and freedoms of Rochdale residents.

"The swearing ban is so vaguely defined it would prove impossible for anyone to know whether they were breaking the law or not, while a blanket ban on begging will criminalise some of the most vulnerable people in the town.

"PSPOs are blunt instruments incapable of alleviating hardship or providing support. Sadly they are regularly being used to sweep anything or anyone 'inconvenient' from the streets."

"Until the government opens its eyes to the harm these powers cause, it's up to our local authorities to act responsibly."

Mr Farnell, who heads the Labour-led council, said: "With all the horrific human rights abuses happening around the world right now, I would have thought Liberty had bigger things to worry about.

"We are clamping down on a small minority of antisocial ne'er-do-wells who drunkenly shout and swear and harangue shoppers in our town centre.

"The council is spending £250m transforming Rochdale town centre and we are not going to let a small number of drunken and abusive idiots spoil it for everyone else."

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