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The Manifesto Club is supporting the West Surrey Palestinian Solidarity Campaign in our efforts to leaflet in Woking Town Centre.

http://www.manifestoclub.com/node/1096

 


In this week's Surrey Advertiser there is a great article by Henry Bodkin on page 2 dealing with Woking Borough Council's censorship and unlawful use of private security guards to restrict political leafleting. {gallery}WokingLeafleting{/gallery}  

 


 

Dear Ms Holman [et al],


 

Thank you for your email of 22/5 replying to our corrected email of 27/4.

You mention that the incident of September 2014 is closed. This is correct insofar as we do not intend to pursue the security guard’s assault. As to the Council’s policy on political leafleting, it was closed on the basis agreed with Mr Marshall in December or so. Unfortunately the Public Realms Usage Policy on which you base your reply takes a different approach, one with which we cannot agree, as I pointed out on 27/4/15.

You mention Items 10 (Leafleting) and Item 12 (Political, religious and other lobby groups).

Item 10 does not distinguish between political and other leafleting. It also restricts leafleting to 2 small peripheral areas and excludes the other main publicly owned areas such as Jubilee Square and Commercial Way to which the police has agreed we have a right of access. And even in these areas, it restricts it to once a month and not on Friday to Sunday.

These restrictions are contrary to the DEFRA Guidance to Councils of 24/3/2015 (https://www.gov.uk/council-powers-to-control-leafleting-causing-a-litter-problem)

which we have already quoted to you, and I refer you to the section on “Exempt leaflets” covering political leaflets.

Item 12 about political leafleting says “Woking Borough Council encourages the use of the public realm by groups which support the diversity of the Borough, but retains the right to refuse permission to organisations whose views or activities would lead to potential public order issues or widespread offence”.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign policy (http://www.westsurreypsc.org.uk/about-us#anti%20Racism) states that it “... opposes all racism, including anti-Jewish prejudice, and the apartheid and Zionist nature of the Israeli state. We were founded on principles of justice, human rights, and opposition to all forms of racism .Any expression of racism or intolerance, or attempts to deny or minimise the Holocaust have no place in our movement. Such sentiments are abhorrent in their own right and can only detract from the building of a strong movement in support of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.”

The Police examined the leaflets and posters used in September 2014 and agreed they were not offensive. It is not up to the Council or up to employees of Woking Shopping to decide whether our materials are or are not offensive. The occasional supporter of Israeli policies who does not like them does not make them offensive or conducive to public order issues.

We assume therefore that Item 12 does not apply to us.

Moreover the requirements elsewhere in your Policy about advance notice, advance submission of posters and leaflets, Public Liability Insurance are equally contrary to established public rights of political leafleting and to the DEFRA Guidance.

We are glad to hear you are considering reviewing your Policy. Item 6 Event zones correctly identifies that political etc groups do not require a permit in areas marked Y, contrary to Item 10. This needs to be clarified and we suggest that Item 12 be modified by adding:

12.2 The restrictions on leafleting in publicly owned areas embedded in Items 7 and 10 and the requirements in 4. Booking terms do not apply.

Regarding Item 5. Code of conduct, in 5.2 Woking Shopping does not apply and the provisions of 5.5 also do not apply.

12.3 Groups proposing to leaflet the Event Zones (Item 6) managed by WS and marked with a Y are asked to voluntarily let WS know of their plans in advance.


 

I hope you will agree with our suggestions so as to avoid future problems for all of us.


 

Yours etc

GAR

cc James, Hilary


 


 

 

DEFRA has just published a new Guidance to Councils regarding leafleting on 24 March 2015 which is appended at the end of this note under C. and states:

Exempt leaflets

Freedom of speech is important. You can’t ask people to apply for permission or restrict the distribution of leaflets that are:

  • by or on behalf of a charity (if the leaflet is intended to benefit the charity)

  • for the purposes of a religion or belief

  • for political purposes

Giving out offensive material can be a criminal offence (for example, stirring up racial hatred). If you think someone is committing an offence you should consider reporting it to the police.”


 

It seems to us that Woking’s existing Public Realm Usage Policy is not clear about political leafleting and conflicts with DEFRA Guidance.

Under A, we have put questions relating to this, and under B, questions about the Event Application Form. For convenience, C contains the DEFRA Guidance.


 

These points need to be clarified both with Woking Council then with Woking Shopping to make sure that the kind of problems encountered in September 2012, September 2014 and April 2015 can be avoided in future.


 

G. A. Roussopoulos, 23 April 2015

West Surrey branch of Palestinian Solidarity Campaign


 


 

 

A. Public Realms Usage Policy [PRUP]


 

The Public Realms Usage Policy of Council is the key document and there are questions arising. Its overall slant is about how to manage commercial activities in the areas listed in PRUP 6 Event zones. It shows political groups can have 'Events' in Commercial Way and Jubilee Sq and almost everywhere except inside the shopping centres mostly, which is fine if so.

However all the conditions and details that follow are aimed at commercial activities and nothing refers specifically to political leafleting to distinguish the conditions applying to it.

All the areas of interest to us are managed by WS i.e. Woking Shopping. Most of them are actually owned by the Council and so are public areas (eg main Commercial Way, Jubilee Sq).

According to PRUP 3, WS "... has an informal arrangement with the Council to ‘supervise’ events and activities taking place in public areas adjacent to the shopping centres, particularly at weekends, when Council staff are not in attendance." That presumably means Jubilee Sq, most of Commercial Way, Bandstand and Albion Sq etc

In these public areas, WS has to implement Council policy. The points below focus on these areas.


 

PRUP 4.3 – does the requirement for notice of 14 days, insurance, samples, risk assessment apply to political leafleting outside the shopping centre proper where ‘informal arrangement’ applies eg Jubilee Square, most of Commercial Way?

That seems to be an infringement of civil rights in public spaces.

PRUP 5.2 – would it be lawful for WS to stop us?

PRUP 5.5 - official ID? Not for political leafleting surely

PRUP 6 - all the locations marked Yes are presumably open for political leafleting subject to no significant conflict of timing - to be confirmed

PRUP 7.1 - Council apparently controls Jubilee Square after all and WS just keeps the bookings, ‘deals with operational matters’, presumably on the day. Since leafleting is permitted there (see 6), political leafleting should be added to 7.1.

PRUP 8-9 - irrelevant to us

PRUP 10. - Leafleting - Does this mean no leafleting except in Albion Sq and Sparrow Park - small areas, and not on Fri to Sun?? These are very extreme restrictions.

Does this apply to political leafleting too or just commercial leafleting?? Is carrying a poster while leafleting not leafleting??

PRUP 12.1 - Council encourages ... but may refuse permission etc - how does Council see us?? And does that encouragement include political leafleting in the Yes areas of PRUP 6?

PRUP 13-14 - irrelevant to us


 

 


 

B. Event application form (8 pages)


 

In general this form of 8 pages is designed to cope with commercial events or big other events, and is mostly not applicable to political leafleting or carrying the occasional placard by fairly small numbers.

The following are the main points that seem irrelevant or inapplicable (NO) regarding political leafleting with the odd placard or two:


 

P1 & 2 Organiser details, Event details (type, dates and times, commercial or not etc) OK

P3 Use banners or posters? Written approval from relevant Department? - NO for placards, YES for stalls/banners that might obstruct

P4 Largely irrelevant

P5/6 Irrelevant

P7 Organisers must hold insurance of £5m+ ref Public Liability or Third Party risks - NO

All documentation must be supplied at least 28 days before the event - NO

You must notify Police or other appropriate services - Police YES others NO

P8 Send site plan etc if appropriate - NO ( but indication on p2 of areas to be leafleted instead)

Organiser signs the form - YES, encloses documentation - none envisaged


 


 

 


 

C. Guidance from DEFRA 15 March 2015

Council powers to control leafleting causing a litter problem

https://www.gov.uk/council-powers-to-control-leafleting-causing-a-litter-problem

 

 

From: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

First published: 24 March 2015

Part of: Environment and Local government

How councils can control leafleting which is causing a litter problem, the places and leaflets that are exempt and the fees they can charge.


 

Contents

  1. Places where you can’t restrict leafleting

  2. Exempt leaflets

  3. Before you restrict leafleting

  4. Restrict leafleting

  5. Allowing leaflet distribution in restricted areas

  6. Fees

  7. Allowing leafleting with limits or conditions

  8. Refusing or revoking permission to leaflet

  9. Appeals

  10. Penalties

  11. Ending the need for permission to leaflet

If you’re a district or county council, you can restrict the distribution of flyers, pamphlets, stickers, cards or other leaflets if they’re causing a litter problem.

Unless their leaflet is exempt, individuals or groups who want to leaflet in these restricted areas must then apply to you to get permission.

You can apply this restriction to any land you’re responsible for keeping clear of litter and refuse (‘relevant land’). Restrictions also apply to leafleting from vehicles in that area.

These restrictions don’t apply to posters and other fixed advertising.

Places where you can’t restrict leafleting

You can’t restrict leafleting:

  • on private land or premises, eg flyers handed out at a venue

  • on public transport, eg leaflets left in stands on buses

  • through letterboxes

  • in newspapers or other publications

Exempt leaflets

Freedom of speech is important. You can’t ask people to apply for permission or restrict the distribution of leaflets that are:

  • by or on behalf of a charity (if the leaflet is intended to benefit the charity)

  • for the purposes of a religion or belief

  • for political purposes

Giving out offensive material can be a criminal offence (for example, stirring up racial hatred). If you think someone is committing an offence you should consider reporting it to the police.

Before you restrict leafleting

Consider the cause of the problem. Your approach must be in proportion to the litter problem. Before restricting leafleting in an area, find out:

  • whether the litter is from one promoter or several

  • whether the leaflet is designed to make a profit for anyone

  • whether the distributor is a marketing company or an individual or community group

You may want to treat leaflets promoting community or small-scale cultural or music events differently from leaflets that promote commercial or for-profit events as any restrictions can have a greater impact on small or voluntary groups.

You should make sure any restrictions are consistent with how you apply other legislation. For example, if an event doesn’t need an entertainment licence you should consider whether it’s appropriate to require permission to distribute leaflets about it.

Voluntary schemes

Try to work with the community and set up a voluntary scheme before imposing restrictions. A voluntary scheme could ask distributors to agree to:

  • stand near bins when handing out leaflets

  • pick up any stray leaflets when they have finished

  • only give leaflets to people who want them

  • include an anti-littering message on their leaflets

You could also offer to help to promote events in other ways so that fewer leaflets are necessary, for example by promoting events online, in council buildings or in your newsletter.

Restrict leafleting

If voluntary schemes don’t work, you must take certain steps before you can restrict the distribution of leaflets in an area:

  1. Collect evidence showing that leaflet litter is a problem in the area (you may need to prove that any restrictions are in proportion to the problem - it’s unlikely you’d need to restrict leafleting across a whole local authority or city).

  2. Publish notice of your plans in at least one local newspaper and on the land affected, including:

    • a map of the area affected

    • when the restriction begins (this must be at least 28 days after the notice is published)

    • how people can comment and when they need to do this by (you must allow 14 days for comment after the notice is published)

  3. Consider comments and objections and record your reasons if you reject them.

  4. Publish when you’ll start to restrict leafleting at least 14 days in advance on the land and in at least one local newspaper.

You should also publish this information on your website.

Once restrictions are in place, publish information on:

  • the areas that are restricted

  • how to apply for permission to leaflet

  • how long it takes to process an application

  • fees

  • exemptions

  • any ‘general consents’ that are in place - eg if you have given permission for ‘any leafleting that promotes live entertainment in a small venue’

  • when you don’t need permission

Allowing leaflet distribution in restricted areas

Unless their leaflet is exempt, people wanting to leaflet in a restricted area must apply to you to for permission.

You can give permission to:

  • the person applying

  • someone leafleting on the applicant’s behalf (applicants are responsible for making sure they comply with rules)

  • specific employees in a company or members of a group

  • groups (for example, all performers in a festival or all events at the same venue)

You should write back to applicants and tell them whether or not you’ve given them permission, conditions that apply and any fees.

Fees

You can charge applicants a fee. You should make it clear what the fees are, for example, by publishing them on your website.

Total fees over the year must be limited to covering all reasonable costs associated with operating and enforcing the restriction, including:

  • the area survey

  • administering applications

  • notification procedures

  • monitoring and enforcement of restrictions

You can’t use the fees to cover cleaning costs.

Your fees should be structured so that distributors only pay for what they need. You can reduce or remove fees altogether, for example you may decide to waive fees for distributing a small number of leaflets, or for leaflets advertising small-scale community or cultural events.

Allowing leafleting with limits or conditions

If you give a leaflet distributor written permission you must explain any limitations or conditions that apply to protect the area from litter.

For example, you can limit:

  • where you’re allowing them to leaflet (you can limit the area, ask them to stand near bins or specify other reasonable limitations)

  • the times of day or night you’re allowing them to leaflet at

  • how many leaflets you’re allowing them to give out

  • the type of leaflet you’re allowing them to give out (you can include conditions relating to the format and the content)

You can also impose conditions, including requiring them to:

  • collect any leaflets that have been dropped when they’ve finished

  • show that they have consent to leaflet when asked by an authorised officer

If you change the permission conditions, you must tell any affected distributors.

Refusing or revoking permission to leaflet

You can refuse permission to leaflet if it’s likely to lead to littering.

You can refuse permission if the applicant has been convicted or fined for a leafleting offence in the last 5 years.

You can revoke permission if the applicant:

  • doesn’t comply with conditions

  • has been convicted or fined for distributing leaflets without permission

You must tell the distributor if you plan to revoke an existing permission to give out leaflets.

Appeals

Applicants can appeal to a magistrates’ court if you:

  • refuse permission to leaflet

  • impose limits or conditions

  • revoke their existing permission

Penalties

If people knowingly distribute leaflets or ask someone to deliver leaflets in a restricted area without permission, you can do one of the following:

  • issue a fixed penalty notice of £50 to £80 (the default fine is £75)

  • prosecute them in court (they can be fined up to £2,500)

You can also seize leaflets. You must keep these until legal proceedings are complete or dropped as you’ll need to return them.

You can only dispose of seized leaflets if any of the following apply:

  • you don’t know who the owner is

  • you don’t know where they are

  • the court gives you permission

Ending the need for permission to leaflet

You should remove the requirement to get permission to leaflet if the restriction isn’t having the desired effect or is no longer necessary.

If you decide to do this you must publish a notice in at least one local newspaper and in the places where the restrictions applied. You should also publish this information on your website.