‘They are the official words’ - council defends use of ‘prohibited’ while denying street drinking order is a ‘ban’

A sign declaring alcohol to be 'prohibited' in the town centre.
A sign declaring alcohol to be 'prohibited' in the town centre.

Boston Borough Council has defended its use of the word ‘prohibited’ on signs publicising the public spaces protection order (PSPO) designed to stop street drinking following criticism online.

Council leaders last week reiterated that the PSPO was ‘not a street drinking ban’ as they agreed to extend the order unchanged for the next three years.

Under the order it is not an offence to drink on the street, but it is an offence to fail to hand over alcohol when requested to do so by an ‘authorised officer’.

Coun Paul Skinner said: “It’s not a drinking ban, members of the public have still got a responsibility if they see something to 101 and report it. That’s really necessary as everything is driven by data in this day and age.

“Used in the way it’s used is very good, but the problem is people see it as a drinking ban which it certainly isn’t - it’s more of a way of controlling people’s excessive behaviour.

“That’s the message that needs to go out.”

However readers online have argued the semantics of signage around townwhich state ‘Drinking alcohol or carrying it in any open container in this area is prohibited’.

Joanne Pick wrote on The Standard’s Facebook: “Not banned but prohibited. Eerrrm that would be banned then!!!!”

Robin Smith wrote on theBoston the People page: “When entering the Zone the warning signs clearly state that within the Zone it is prohibited, the definition of which is banned to even carry an open container of alcohol, and no drinking of alcohol is allowed.”

A council spokesman said the words on the signs are the ‘official words from the Home Office to be used on signage’ in connection with section 59 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The spokesman said: “The effect of this Order is to prohibit consumption of alcohol within an area and to require specified things to be done by person/s consuming alcohol in that area.

“Consumption is prohibited when someone consuming alcohol in the PSPO area is seen by a police officer and told to desist or surrender the alcohol – section 63 of the Act.

“Anyone refusing to do this will be committing an offence.”

Members on Wednesday were told that since the order came into force on January 12, 2015, 786 individuals had been dealt with – including 82 repeat drinkers.

Community safety manager Peter Hunn said that every person spoken to by police had complied with instructions.

Councillors were told that they could only extend the PSPO for a further three years and any variation to the order would require full public consultation.

A report before the council showed that from January 2015 until March of this year, no-one breached the PSPO itself by failing to hand over alcohol.

However, through being dealt with on multiple occasions or for other incidents 764 of those approached had faced further action, with 682 receiving advice, 21 getting further anti-social behaviour actions taken against them, 33 given an official PSPO warning, 18 recieving a community protection warning, five a community protection notice and five being successfully convicted in court.

Cabinet members voted unanimously for the order to continue.

Councillors were given alternative options to cancel the order completely, or undertake a further full public consultation to consider any variation to the current order before it expires on January 12, 2018.

The report stated that the options were not recommended because behaviour was still occurring mostly within the controlled area and that there had been ‘no significant displacement of identified activities through reported police incidents and enforcement work of the council’s community safety team’.

Coun Mike Brookes said he was confident the PSPO had reduced incidents of street drinking and that it was essential to carry on.

“The numbers suggest that’s the case since this was introduced and so that in itself is an argument for the order to continue.

“I’m absolutely confident that if we did not have this, things would be a lot worse than they are at the minute.”