UK

Salford Quays Swearing Ban Introduced By Manchester Council And People Are Livid

03/03/2016 15:29 GMT | Updated 03/03/2016 15:59 GMT
Bloomberg via Getty Images
The lights of offices and restaurants are reflected in the water at MediaCityUK in Salford Quays, Manchester, U.K., on Friday, May, 29, 2015. Since the Conservatives won the general election, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced sweeping devolution for Manchester and other English cities. Photographer: Paul Thomas/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A local council's extraordinary step of banning swearing has triggered a backlash from human rights campaigners.

Salford City Council has adopted a Public Space Protection Order that outlaws expletives in the Quays area apparently in a bid to crack down on anti-social behaviour.

The order covers a variety of actions including the use of "foul or abusive language" as well as "throwing of any object at anyone without their consent" and littering.

Anyone found to be breaching any of these would be subject to a fixed penalty notice of £90 or a summons to court with a maximum penalty of £1,000 if convicted.

Human rights group Liberty has written to Salford council to express concern over the "chilling effect on freedom of expression" the order could have.

Liberty’s Legal Officer, Rosie Brighouse, said: "This is a staggering example of the misuse of a Public Space Protection Order – so vaguely worded it’s impossible for anybody to know whether they’re in danger of breaking the law.

"The right to say what we want should not be restricted at the whim of council officials, able to issue fixed penalty notices on the basis of a poorly defined legal order. Without the freedom to offend, real freedom of expression cannot exist."

Comedian Mark Thomas is due to perform at the Lowry theatre in the area and is reported to be encouraging his audience to engage in "artistic and political activities" after his show.

A spokesman for Salford City Council said: "We will discuss Liberty’s concerns privately with them and make sure nothing interferes with Mr Thomas’s artistic performance.

“Liberty are fully aware that breach of a PSPO is only an offence if a person does a prohibited act without a reasonable excuse. That allows all the circumstances to be taken into account.

"I appreciate Liberty want publicity for their campaign against these orders but Salford City Council is not going to apologise for using national legislation to help Salford residents when their lives are being made a misery by anti-social behaviour."

He added: "This order was introduced last summer after complaints from local residents about anti-social behaviour, including people throwing wheelie bins into the Quays and tampering with emergency life saving equipment.

"Over 130 local residents responded to the consultation about whether to introduce this order. Of those 76% were in favour of the order and 94% agreed with a ban on causing general disturbance including being abusive to other persons, using foul language, being rowdy and inconsiderate."