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Public Spaces Protection Order to tackle use of nitrous oxide linked to antisocial behaviour

On Wednesday 28 April the Mayor of Tower Hamlets and Cabinet approved the introduction of a borough-wide Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) to deal with the use of nitrous oxide linked to antisocial behaviour.

A PSPO is an order that prevents certain behaviours or actions being carried out in a specified area. Tower Hamlets already has two PSPOs in place around antisocial behaviour and responsible use of alcohol. PSPOs are one of the tools councils can use to tackle antisocial behaviour, as part of the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The new PSPO, which is now in full effect, makes it an offence to use nitrous oxide and engage in antisocial behaviour, which is a concern for residents across the borough. Misuse of nitrous oxide is associated with increased antisocial behaviour including littering, noise nuisance and vandalism, all of which are detrimental to resident’s quality of life and feelings of safety. Use of nitrous oxide is also a health concern and has other associated harms.

The decision to introduce the PSPO follows a full consultation, where the council invited views from anyone living, working or visiting Tower Hamlets, along with local partners and stakeholders. From the consultation, 98 per cent of respondents were in favour of introducing a PSPO and felt there was an issue with nitrous oxide and antisocial behaviour in the borough.

The council will use intelligence, CCTV, and neighbourhood tasking to identify problem hotspots, where enforcement officers will be deployed. Officers will engage with anyone in breach of the PSPO, explaining the order and encouraging them to stop engaging in antisocial behaviour. Enforcement will be a last resort, with officers able to issue a fixed penalty notice of £100 or prosecute individuals, which can carry a fine of up to £1,000 at court.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “Antisocial behaviour is a top concern for our residents and the introduction of this PSPO is the latest in our efforts to tackle this. People taking ‘laughing gas’ often leave behind a mess of the metal canisters making areas look untidy, and the use of this substance can be harmful. We remain committed to addressing and taking action against those who carry out anti-social behaviour and negatively impact on residents’ lives.”

Following the decision in Cabinet, the council has committed to carrying out a public awareness campaign, to make residents and visitors aware that it is an offence to use nitrous oxide and engage in antisocial behaviour, as well as educating people about the dangers of psychoactive substances. This follows on from the council’s ‘No Laughing Matter’ campaign, where the council cleaned up millions of cannisters and worked to tackle shops selling nitrous oxide to people who misuse it.

Councillor Sirajul Islam, Deputy Mayor and Lead Member for Community Safety, Faith and Equalities, said: “In our residents’ survey antisocial behaviour is one of residents’ top concerns and so we have listened and taken action by consulting and then introducing this PSPO. As a council Tower Hamlets will not tolerate anti-social behaviour and we will continue to work with partners and residents to take action against perpetrators.”

Posted on Thursday 20th May 2021