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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