The Birth of a Police State

Police photo by Carl (1)

The UK government is about to pass legislation which will make any behaviour perceived to potentially ’cause a nuisance or annoyance’ a criminal offence.

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill also grants local authorities, police and even private security firms sweeping powers to bar citizens from assembling lawfully in public spaces.  Those who refuse orders under the new rules will face arrest, fines and even prison time.

The Ever Increasing Powers

Since the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which introduced Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) the government has invented and legislated for a litany of such orders covering everything from dog poo to drug addiction, including but not limited to: Control Orders; Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Orders; Intervention Orders; Crack House Closure Orders; Premise Closure Orders; Brothel Closure Orders; Gang Related Violence Injunctions; Designated Public Place Orders; Special Interim Management Orders; Gating Orders; Dog Control Orders; Letter Clearing Notices;  Noise Abatement Orders; Graffiti/Defacement Removal Notices; Directions to Leave and Dispersal Orders.

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which passed the committee stage of its progress through the House of Commons on Monday 15th July, purports to simplify this legacy of New Labour’s legislative promiscuity.  In reality, it creates a series of wildly ambiguous, generic orders which grant officers of the state and private sector even greater powers to issue tougher sentences, with fewer checks and balances to protect citizens.

Being Annoying is Now Illegal

The Bill introduces Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNAs) to replace ABSOs. Almost no one will be sad to say goodbye to ASBOs.  The orders, designed to allow police to tackle anti-social behaviour, simply became a means of criminalising youthful indiscretion – and eventually a means of criminalising anything people found annoying.  Some of the bizarre abuses of this power include:

  • Stuart Hunt of Loch Ness brought to court 100 times since 2007 for breaching an ASBO preventing him from laughing, staring or slow hand clapping
  • Homeless, alcoholic and mentally ill Michael Gilligan given a 99 year ASBO rather than the welfare support that might have made a difference
  • A profoundly deaf 17 year old girl given an ASBO and a jail sentence for spitting in the street
  • A 13 year old banned from using the word ‘grass’ in England or Wales
  • Manchester Council applied an ASBO to prevent a mobile soup kitchen from feeding the homeless
  • Councils placing ASBOs on homeless people resulting in prison sentences for begging ‘earnestly and humbly’
  • An 87 year old man was given an ASBO threatening a prison sentence if he was sarcastic to his neighbours

The ASBO has allowed the line between criminal behaviour and annoying behaviour to become hopelessly blurred – and the IPNAs will only serve to increase the problem.  We have seen the abuses permitted under ASBO legislation, the test for which included wording to the effect that ASBOs could only be issued where an actual act of ‘harassment, alarm or distress’ had occurred.

Many believe they have rights

to protest, assemble and

associate that they lost a

decade ago, simply because

they have never actually

attempted to claim them

IPNAs have a much weaker test, applicable where on the ‘balance of probabilities’ a person has or might engage in behaviour ‘capable of causing annoyance’ to another person.

How many times a day could this legislation apply to any of us?

Eating with our mouths open, talking too loudly into our phones in a public space, walking too slowly or quickly or belching without saying ‘pardon me’.  All of this may very well cause annoyance – but soon it might well also be illegal.

The orders can be issued to anyone aged 10 or over (and we all know how well 10 year olds are at being annoying), and there is no limit on how long an IPNA can be applied to a person for.  A person could receive an IPNA for 10 and retain it their entire life.

Whereas an ASBO could only desist the subject from certain actions, the IPNA includes ‘positive obligations’ (p10).  This means the subject of an IPNA can be found in breach not simply for doing things they have been banned from doing, but from not doing things that the IPNA states they must.  This makes an IPNA much closer to probation and other post-conviction arrangements than a civil order.

An IPNA can be applied for by Local Authorities, police, some transport bodies and some NHS authorities.

The consequences of breaching an IPNA are serious.  The breaching of an IPNA has been added to the conditions for securing possession of a home – meaning a 10 year old child breaching their IPNA could result in the entire family being evicted from their council house. Breaching the orders can also result in jail time for anyone over 14.

Even the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), giving evidence on the proposals, argued that this could lead to further criminalisation of children and called on the government to think again.

But the plans move along unaltered.

Kiss Goodbye to Freedom of Assembly

Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs), and new Dispersal Orders will replace Designated Public Space Orders, Dog Control Orders, Gating Orders and a host of other orders intended to keep aggressive drunken people or drug dealers or dog poo off our streets.  But it is plain that the target for these laws is no longer the person peddling illegal drugs, but the people sharing politically challenging ideas.

These new powers present the most significant threat to lawful assembly and protest in modern history.

Public Space Protection Orders

PSPOs will be granted where ‘activities carried on or likely to be carried on in a public place will have or have had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality’ (p21).  They can be used to restrict an activity or require people to perform an activity in a certain way.

They require substantially less consultation than current alcohol free zones or dog control zones and rather than applying to everyone, they can be applied to specific groups of people (the homeless, the unemployed, racial/religious groups etc.) – opening the door for discrimination.  These rules could see homeless people or young people lawfully excluded from public spaces.

PSPOs are subject to ‘on the spot’ fines, rather than attendance at a Magistrates’ Court, reducing the scrutiny and checks on police power.

These orders are also by no means short term.  They can be applied for up to three years, and continued for another three years at the end of their term.

The orders have been heavily challenged by Liberty and The Manifesto Club on the basis that they will seriously infringe upon people’s freedom to assemble, associate and protest.  The Ramblers (the walking charity) have also given written evidence to the government raising their fears about the further appropriation of public highways, by ways and footpaths under the PSPO powers.

Police photo by Carl (2)

Dispersal Orders

Under the current Direction to Leave powers, anyone over 10 years of age can be asked to disperse from a ‘locality’ and stay dispersed for period not exceeding 48 hours.

Current Dispersal Orders mean a Police Superintendent (or an officer with specific written authority from the SI) can disperse groups or two or more people in areas where there has been ‘persistent anti-social behaviour’ or take home any young person under the age of 16 who is in a dispersal zone between 9pm and 6am.

Anyone failing to comply with a Dispersal Order faces a fine of up to £2,500 or up to three months in prison.

Downing Street clearly do not feel this is tough enough.

The new Dispersal Powers mean police constables and even Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) can issue dispersal orders if they think a group of two or more persons might harass, alarm or distress others in the vicinity (p16).

The PCSO or constable can specify how long the person/group must remain out of the designated area, and by which route they must leave, and also confiscate any items of their property which they deem anti-social.  Failure to comply with any element of these orders results in a fine of up to £5,000 or three months in prison.

The new legislation also fails to define ‘locality’ – meaning a person could be excluded from a city, a county or even a whole country (p17).  In fact, York couldn’t even wait for the new legislation to pass and is already implementing the powers.

These new laws effectively end freedom of assembly in England and Wales, as any lawful assembly can be instantly redefined as illegal on the spot by some part time PCSO, people’s personal possessions can be confiscated, and anyone who dares to challenge the process will end up in jail.

What Will It Take?

One could be forgiven for despairingly enquiring: ‘What it will take for the slumbering British public to awake to the fact that the legal and physical infrastructure of a police state is being built around them?’  

Many believe they have rights to protest, assemble and associate that they lost a decade ago, simply because they have never actually attempted to claim them.   They remain imaginary rights, never cashed in.

As someone who has found herself arrested, locked up and later cleared by a court twice in recent years for peaceful protest – I discovered for myself how much things had changed while I wasn’t looking.  So without getting everyone to attend a protest and get arrested, we rely on communicating the changes to those who might not experience them directly.

These new powers present

the most significant threat

to lawful assembly and

protest in modern history

But while the BBC, our main broadcaster, has devoted its resources to stick a correspondent up the arse of anyone with the faintest connection to the Royal Baby – no such resources have been devoted to informing on the curtailing of our most basic freedoms. Defenders of the BBC may argue they are there to cover the news, not make it – this is an outright lie.

The media create stories as well as cover them, many people glean what is important from how much it is being talked about on the news and in the papers.

Imagine if journalists were door-stepping David Cameron, human rights campaigners and police authorities all day every day asking what on earth was going to happen with our human rights? If 19 pages of the Sun (news)paper wasn’t talking about the Royal Baby but our eroded civil liberties?  Things would look very, very different.

In the meantime, it’s up to all of us with an interest to shout it from the roof tops.  We have a hell of a fight on our hands here, and most folks still don’t even know it.


Read Kerry Anne Medoza’s report on Occupy’s Million Mask March.

Photos: Carl Byron Batson.

About Kerry Anne Mendoza 20 Articles
Kerry-Anne Mendoza is author of the Scriptonite Daily Blog: She is also a contributor to New Internationalist, openDemocracy and the Occupy News Network. She is a writer, activist and campaigner for social, economic and environmental justice.


  1. A magnificently well written article articulating the profoundly alarming ‘State’ in which we find ourselves. Thank you Kerry. It takes intuition, research and experience to learn to understand the thought processes and motivation of the ‘enemy’ who are and have been in plain sight for ever: what we call government and we should cease to allow oursleves to be governed, at all. xx

  2. I wonder if a large crowd of police could be claimed to be as illegal as one of an equal amount of protesters.
    Similarly sirens being used by them could be considered a nuisance.

    • I was thinking that you could get a PCSO to put a dispersal order on all the police forces and ban them from the uk…. The’re pretty much guaranteed to cause harassment, distress or alarm lol

  3. In Essex in 2011 the police claimed to be neutral in civil cases,saying they do not conduct evictions -merely attend as bystanders and then mounted a multi-million pound exercise at the request of right wing politicians.They claimed six months prior to the event that they had uncovered a plot by thousands (?)of anarchists to hijack the fabrication.

  4. Interesting how colonial powers like the UK & USA, that exerted/ exert draconian rule overseas, are now bringing home their ill gotten pathological learning in repressive legislation against their own citizens…the new Petro Empire has been birthed. The Orcs are marching the lands and its up to us hobbits to find a way to collapse Mordor before they render us extinct, (not to put too fine a point on it!)

  5. I’m pretty sure I’d disagree with most of your politics, but this is a sickening abuse of power. A well written article.

  6. The evaporation of our freedoms has been covered extensively by citizen journalists, but it’s a brave hack who will publish what they write. Leveson or not, much of our main stream media is under state control.

    • We are witnessing nothing short of a globe spanning single minded entity, bent on the destruction and abolishment of any and ALL human rights, freedoms and creative thinking! We ALL need to stand up and demand that this will not proceed under ANY cercumstans real or imagined,

    • its that crazy you have loads of people here commenting who dont know that they dont know but think they know, they dont realize they are being tricked into asking for their freedoms to be taken away. lol the irony

    • the bankers are getting greedy and the only thing that will quench their thirst is a big world war so they can fund all sides making trillions off the interest. you will see the economy collapse then wait for it….just history repeating. but it wont repeat after this as this will be the last war, if that doesnt happen it will be because we have all been successfully enslaved and we only have ourselves to blame because we are not paying enough attention to what is really going on with these monsters called Government..


    Unfortunately, you’ve spoiled it by the line above. Signing petitions and typing stuff on the internet is all folk do nowadays.
    Thats why the ‘powers that be’ can pass any law they want, while we go on signing petitions and moaning through our keyboards.
    I include myself in this.

    Welcome to the new age. I’m glad I’m in my late 50s. I really pity the young folk and the country they are inheriting.

  8. good luck mr cameron civil outrage will cause more trouble than your hoping to save you fool i hear he is also trying to ban pornography which is laughable to say the least people tend to not like having there jobs there money there benfits then there right to do, say and watch whatever the hell they like so in summary go fuck urself sir and all your like minded friends

  9. the only thing to stop all theses is to rise up as brazilians, turks, greeks etc. againt the state-not goverment state it self, aint no difffrence whether a labour party which the labour is only mentiend in its name, liberals who are only liberal to them selves and neo liberal politics, and tories, who are assholes of all time

  10. It’s the UK and we don’t make a fuss, the sooner you lot get used to it the happier you’ll all be. If you want revolution I suggest France, Russia or China. Stop bellyaching and enjoy yourselves FFS.

    • Its that kind of thinking which has got us into this mess, we should be hanging these people who work for us but think they are the boss, we are the british, where have our balls gove?

  11. The reason we are silenced is due to MSG.

    What is MSG?

    MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a processed food additive. It is an extremely dangerous neurotoxin (excitotoxin) that shrivels and kills brain cells in the hypothalamus and has been linked to migraines, seizures, ADD/ADHD, heart palpitations, tremors, and MANY other symptoms that can even be fatal. I know it was partly responsible for my constant daily headaches (for about 20 years) and the two years of migraines every day that led to a hospitalization, more drugs that did nothing but cause side effects and years of misery.

    What is the hypothalamus?

    The hypothalamus is a portion of the brain, located just above the brain stem, roughly the size of an almond. Though small, it’s incredibly important as it is responsible for certain metabolic processes and other activities of the autonomic nervous system. One of the most important functions of the hypothalamus is to link the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus controls body temperature, hunger, thirst, fatigue, sleep, and circadian cycles.

    What is an excitotoxin?
    An excitotoxin is a chemical that causes a brain cell to become overexcited and fire uncontrollably, leading to cell death. MSG (and other excitotoxins like asparatame) has the potential for inflicting permanent damage to the brain and nervous system. These chemicals also cross the placental barrier, harming the brains of unborn children.

    Basically its a gag of the mind 🙂 Clever stuff until people stop taking it then what ?

    Oh or High functioning autism overtakes the world at the moment usa is at 50-1 and uk 100-1.

    Yes it is msg that causes this brainrot.

    Yes it overloading on msg that causes anger and upset.

    Rioting and violence, and general lack of control, from children to adults.

    Well im sad to say it that as we are all poisoned and autism overruns the world who the fuck is gonna be left to pay taxes, or should i say who is even gonna care about money or its value.

    You see this MSG control is backfiring and stealing and culling children from uk autistic adults will not balance the autism normal ratio, because all though you may try its in the air so we are all doomed even the makers.

    I am HFA and I look forward to the day all those that persecuted me have autistic children of there own, oh what fun will that be when you have no children to follow in your footsteps because you have poisoned your own brains and passed on that mutation.

    Stupid fools, genocide of your own (literally)

    even prince harry is autistic so shame on you too royals, you are not immune either.

    As long as we import food from horse meat farms, we will always be poisoned of which we always will be.

  12. unreal what a load of bullshit, david cameron get a backbone and stop being obamas puppet, you mug ,your feeble attempt to suppress humanity cant work ! your goverments time is slipping away from you , we are the people jus hope we can sort your mess out , thanx for nothing .

  13. Bunch of bloody hippies, tree huggers and champagne socialist have a go anarchists. Same bunch of dickheads who you’ll find rioting or demonstrating about fox hunting, abortion, pro life, divorce, pro family, schools, nuclear power, the price of milk, the price of a pint.

    If you’re not doing anything illegal then you’ve nothing to worry about

    Otherwise, fuck off and hug a tree or better still have a bloody wash you soap dodging cunts.

    • You, sir, are fucking retarded.
      I suppose when they start making all your favourite shit illegal you’re just doing to bend over and take it like a bitch because “hey, it’s only illegal now, and I didn’t have to worry about this before so I can’t complain now it’s happened.”

      • Dear CMW,
        I’m not sure you’re going about charity fundraising in the best possible way.
        Dare I say that you might consider something that requires less charisma and more going elsewhere.
        Good luck and remember to vote – your voice matters.

    • WELL SAID.

      SPOT ON. The same old moaners, who are never happy, if your not prepared to get with it then get out because it is not going to change is it, come on, look at the bigger picture. Free will is an illusion and always has been in country. If your not prepared to excise certain self controls go live elsewhere.. I am sure you will love it far more than the UK..

    • ..Can’t hug a tree, luv, it’s now a criminal offence in our proud, caring, free society. Grazs britannia, sleepy head xx

    • illegal is anything they want to make illegal even if you think it should be legal, soon we will have people checking on us in our homes to see if we are behaving, maybe even cctv in the living room. this has been going on for a long time because it is an old well thought out plan. watch america and the uk start to mirror the old fascist nazi germany over the next couple of years or so. this is all about conditioning generations of people over time not to think for themselves and do as they are told and the government will look after them. you ever wonder why everyone has always had to work hard and our governments spend silly amounts of it on wars, nation building overseas or even giving billions to other countrys like india who can send rockets into space yet they are always after making cuts and raising taxes here? we should be able to afford the best defence, best hospitals, schools, the best of everything, isnt that what it is all about? family? it is all about looking after the family and friends in the communities or there is nothing worth carrying on for surely? if it is true that it is all about family and friends and looking after eachother laughing through good times why does our government take every opportunity to make it harder for familys to stay together or even feed themselves? our money should be going to the things we want it to go to, not where the people who work for us want it to go to. that is what i am angry about, call me a tree hugger if it makes you feel better. what you dont get is we who are awake are not miserible, we are sad about stuff going on but you dont see us crying. past that and still carry on happily, it might look like we are crying about everything but that is not what we do, we point things out to people who might not of whats right infront of their face, its frustrating when others dont see it and try to make fun.

  14. This was started with Hate Speech laws.

    This is used against counter-jihadists vs Fascist Muslims.

    All socialists must look at their own side and see who benefits from this.

  15. What a LOAD OF RUBBISH!!! Most of these so-called ‘new laws’ you have mentioned have been on the go for years! As for the dispersal order it does need tightening up a bit more, who wants to see drunken layabouts, gangs of youths who are up to no good and flea infested beggars on our streets? I know I don’t.

    • so because the government is dumbing our young down and sending all the jobs overseas leaving them no future. we have yobs and drunks everywhere because our government has run this country into the ground, why do you think there are so many? there is nothing for them, no future and you think the answer is to make more laws and get tougher? why dont you go and work for the torys you big dope?

    • I assume from your comment that you’re someone who does everything they can to keep those less fortunate than you off the streets? That’s very charitable of you… I wish there were more like you. So many people unjustly tar the homeless as dirty thieves and the youth as trouble-makers these days. You are like a breath of fresh air! What a fine human being.