Norfolk police use new power to disperse people 194 times

Police are appealing for information after a sports car theft in Holywell Row.

Police are appealing for information after a sports car theft in Holywell Row. - Credit: Archant © 2005

Norfolk Police are among the most prolific users of a new order which disperses members of the public from a location to prevent crime and public disorder.

Officers in the county issued 194 dispersal orders following October's introduction of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, according to newly published figures, with Norwich having the highest figures in the county.

Previously, orders could be invoked only if there was a 'significant and persistent problem' with anti-social behaviour, but now requires only that the powers 'may be necessary' to prevent such occurrences.

A Norfolk police spokesman said the orders offered a 'means of taking pro-active action in preventing crime or anti-social behaviour' when members of the public are being 'intimidated, harassed or distressed'.

Libertarian campaign group the Manifesto Club has criticised the new powers in its recent Dispersal notices - The Crime of Being in a Public Place.

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Of 23 forces that provided information to the report, only Hampshire police with 200 recorded more orders between October 21 and November 30. Norfolk was highlighted as an example of the dispersal power 'blurring the distinction between crime and non-crime'.

'It was striking that police forces mentioned criminal and non-criminal activities alongside one another as reasons for declaring dispersal zones,' the report added.

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'Norfolk police declared zones in Norwich city centre in response to 'begging', 'drugs' and 'prostitution', applying the same legal remedy to these activities of very different legal status.'

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