Usually I type this kind of Blogpost up as soon as possible after I have brought the information home with me. I have had to leave typing the Blogpost below for quite a few hours in order for my "Sarcasm Gauge" to return to its normal operating parameters - this is because (even though this is a serious topic which really needs to be discussed and raised in the public arena) there are so many reasons for me to treat this topic with the contempt I feel it deserves that it has almost gone beyond the limits of satire.
Apparently Leicester City Council have decided to ban the public from orally rehydrating themselves in the street - and they have Government permission to do this. This ban is now at the Consultation stage. I am not entirely sure why they have taken this decision.
Oh - I do apologise - it turns out that Leicester City Council are holding a consultation on banning the consumption of alcoholic liquids in the street not banning consumption of all drinkable liquids in the street (not my fault that I understand the phrase "Street Drinking" to mean all liquids).
If you think about it logically the first option would be a slightly more workable solution that the second one (after all people who decide to consume alcohol in public areas may have decanted their beverage into a container which disguises the contents in order to get around any bans on the consumption of alcohol in public places).
There are two major things I find extremely worrying about the so-called consultation.
Firstly - the wording in the "Public Spaces Protection Order" regarding the consumption of alcohol in the street looks so vague that anybody could be caught up in it. (There is another slightly more sinister side to it which I will come to in a minute.)
The wording appears to have been changed from virtually needing concrete proof that the Street Drinking is causing a nuisance to only needing to be worried that it is going to cause a nuisance.
The Government have brought out something called "Public Space Protection Orders" (or PSPO's). On the face of it they seem to be useful documents when applied to the correct activities. My problem is with the two conditions (these are written in such a way to be as vague as possible);
The first condition is as follows;
(a) Activities in a public place have a detrimental effect of quality of life of those in the locality (ie, anybody who is present within shouting distance of the activities).
(b) it is likely that activities will be carried on in a public place or area that will cause detriment.
Call me strange but I do not find anything alarming about someone who is consuming alcohol in public. If someone is sitting on a bench in Town Hall Square drinking a can of lager and not disturbing anyone else I would leave them to it. Same goes for the Bishop of Leicester suddenly deciding to have an open air Communion (Eucharist or Mass) Service on the new Cathedral gardens - after all the Holy Communion involves the consumption of wine (which usually contains alcohol).
The time when I would start to worry is when people start to become aggresive after having consumed large quantities of alcohol.
(In fact, I honestly consider the idiots who fly around Town Hall Square on bikes, skateboards, etc, more likely to cause detriment to my personal health and safety than someone sitting quietly on a bench drinking a can of lager.)
The second condition is so vague it can be applied to just about any activity;
This concerns the effect or likely effect of the activities;
(a) is, or is likely to be, of a persistent or continuing nature
(b) is, or is likely to be, such as to make the activities unreasonable,
(c) justifies the restrictions imposed by the notice.
(This could be a spot fine of £100 or up to £1,000 if the case goes to Court - for refusing to stop drinking alcohol, refusing to hand over any alcohol or refusing to dispose of it.)
By the way - this PSPO could be enacted anywhere within the city boundary (I am wondering whether it could be used to shut Pubs and Clubs down).
The strange thing about the legislation is that it fails to recognise a fatal flaw in itself. Allow me to explain;
If you are seen on Town Hall Square at 7.00am on a weekday morning drinking alcohol the chances are you are probably an alcoholic. You are possibly also homeless.
Nowhere in the above mentioned legislation does it mention anything about the provision of help or treatment for the unfortunate human with alcohol misuse issues.
In fact, the provision of support for both Alcoholics and Homeless people is being reduced more and more - to the point where they end up in one of three places;
1) Her Majesty's Police Station,
2) Her Majesty's Prison Service,
3) Her Majesty's National Health Hospitals.
none of which actually address the cause of why they became an alcoholic and/or homeless in the first place, and they certainly do not help to prevent reoccurence of excessive consumption of alcohol.
The only places which could have a hand in preventing people falling back into alcohol misuse are places like Alcoholics Anonymous or properly funded and adequately staffed hostels for recovering alcoholics. Failing that we need a proper, fully functioning, Mental Health service with professionals posted at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester General Hospital, and Glenfield Hospital to screen for and help people who are developing alcohol dependency problems. Ideally they would be available 24 hours a day.
Remember I said there was a more sinister side to the orders???
The way I read it (and the way I heard it when it was explained to me) sounded like it could be like the "Going Equipped" idea - where the Police can stop you if you are carrying an object which has the potential to be used in some crime or other (even if you are not intending to commit any crime at all). As in - the burden is on you to prove that the bottle of wine or can of lager you are carrying on your person is not going to be consumed in a place where it could cause panic and distress (ie, in a public space).
What I find the most unnerving about the legislation is its potential elasticity. Leicester City Council are currently consulting on using it to control the consumption of alcohol in public places. How long before they decide to stretch it to other aspects of "civilian life" which they find offensive???
Being seen to be writing in public? Being seen to send electronic communications in public? Gathering in a public place (without alcohol) to have a meeting without seeking prior permission (in triplicate)?
Why can't we be left in peace to carry out our daily business until we actually do something illegal or "liable to cause offence to the public at large" - instead of being treated like idiots whose first action when in public is guaranteed to be an arrestable offence (even if the case is built on the flimsiest legal grounds ever invented)???
I have heard of the saying "Prevention is better than cure" but surely you need to be sure about what you are trying to prevent???
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