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Thousands being punished for “entirely innocuous actions” according to Lib Dem peer

As the number of people fined for cycling in areas covered by Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO) continues to rise, a lawyer for human rights charity, Liberty, has expressed concern that wardens may be, "acting with incentives to issue as many fines as possible".

PSPOs allow for fixed penalty notices to be issued for a series of offences and several towns have used them to ban cycling in certain areas.

PSPOs are controversial for criminalising behaviour that would not normally be illegal and also for the way in which they are sometimes enforced.

Last month a man fined for cycling in Peterborough asked whether the PSPO there was just a money-making exercise.

Stephen, who had been riding at walking pace, carrying his two-year-old daughter in a rear child’s seat, said: “It stunned me at the time that I was not simply asked to dismount and pointed out the reasoning, but instead was issued a fine.”

Last year we reported how the enforcement firm patrolling the Peterborough PSPO area, Kingdom, collected over £80,000 in fines for unauthorised cycling in a little under a year.

The BBC now reports that the number of people being fined has risen further.

Fixed penalty notices were issued to 1,533 people for "unauthorised cycling" in 2018, as well as to 861 for spitting, and to 13 for "failure to disperse".

Nor is it just Peterborough. Campaign group The Manifesto Club, which uncovered the figures through a Freedom of Information Request, found that there has been a 420% increase in PSPO fines since 2016, when there were only 1,906 issued in England and Wales.

About 60% of the 9,930 fines were issued by just four councils – Peterborough (2,430), Bedford (1,489), Hillingdon (1,125) and Waltham Forest (966).

All four use private companies to enforce the PSPO.

Rosie Brighouse, a lawyer for human rights charity Liberty, said she was concerned some wardens were "acting with incentives to issue as many fines as possible".

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Tim Clement-Jones said: "The shocking rise in petty PSPOs and fines means that thousands of people are being punished for entirely innocuous actions."

A Local Government Association spokesman said: "PSPOs are one of a number of ways councils can tackle anti-social behaviour problem.

"PSPOs will not be suitable or effective in all circumstances, and councils will consider other approaches which may better resolve the anti-social behaviour identified."

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are clear PSPOs should be used proportionately to tackle anti-social behaviour."

Bedford Borough Council is currently consulting on the renewal of its PSPO banning cycling, which is due to expire later this year. Campaigners say there has been a decline in the number of people riding into the town centre since it was introduced in 2016.

Earlier this year, round-the-world cyclist Josh Quigley was handed a £75 fine for riding his bike in Bedford town centre.

The Livingstone cyclist, who was just a week into his trip, tore up the ticket and said he wouldn’t pay, arguing that local councils should be encouraging people to get on their bikes, not punishing them.

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