New powers to ban begging, legal highs and prostitutes in Wigan

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Police and local authority officers may be given more powers to tackle Wigan’s anti-social behaviour problems.

Greater Manchester Police and Wigan Council are considering introducing Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO) in Wigan and Leigh town centres in a bid to curb concerns about prostitutes, begging and, in particular, “legal highs.”

We are hoping for as much community involvement in the consultation as possible

A town hall report says that an increase in these three menaces are having a “detrimental effect” on the areas.

A GMP spokesman said: “We are hoping for as much community involvement in the consultation as possible.

“The feedback would influence whether or not we chose to proceed with this power and if so, what the PSPO would constitute.”

If the orders are approved they could see it made an offence for anyone to ingest, inject, smoke or otherwise use intoxicating substance with the capacity to stimulate or depress the central nervous system.

The ban on psychoactive substances - commonly referred to as “legal highs” - would not include tobacco or prescription medication.

It would also make it an offence to possess open containers of intoxicating substances or any item that can be used to assist in the taking of them.

Anyone caught taking drugs or in possession of the prohibited items will be made to leave the area and not return for 24 hours when ordered to do so by a police constable or PCSO unless they live in the designated area.

They could also face a fine of up to £100.

A statement on Wigan Council’s website reads: “An issue which has been brought to light is the concern over the use and supply of so called ‘legal highs’ in the Wigan town centre.

“A premises was raided recently in Leigh, and £5,000 of substances seized. Trading Standards had received complaints that New Psychoactive Substances NPS were being sold to under-18s and young adults.

“GMP officers have also reported the use of legal highs and the detrimental effects they are having in a number of cases in Wigan and Leigh.

“In addition to the adverse medical symptoms which have been described above, they have also experienced aggressive behaviour by people under the influence of NPS, which has made it difficult for the emergency services and the police to assist.

“Our proposal is to empower officers who feel persons are causing or are likely to cause nuisance and annoyance to be able to direct these persons away from the area and not to return which would prevent any further nuisance being caused. Those who live within the area may be asked to return home if they are involved.”

The order will also apply to anyone in the area making a verbal, non-verbal or written request – including the placing of hats or containers for money, donations or goods save on designated pitches and with the express permission of the council.

The statement continues: “The issues include begging in the main shopping areas of the town centre. The individuals who have been involved have been directed towards support agencies to deter the need to beg for money.

“It is thought some of those begging for money use any kind donations to fund drug and alcohol habits. The effect on local businesses can mean shoppers will not enter premises due to persons begging outside.

“CCTV staff have witnessed individuals begging regularly and they have also witnessed a number of incidents involving females meeting men during the night time economy, and taking them to cash machines and stealing their money and/or mobile phones.

“The issues raised above have a detrimental effect on the town centre as a whole. Wigan Council and its partners continue to attempt to support individuals in need of help to prevent the need to beg directly from members of the public.

“To help us decide on the best way forward for Wigan, we want to know what you think. The survey responses will be analysed and be used to inform the Council’s decision about how the proposed Public Space Protection Order is progressed. All answers will be kept confidential.”

To complete the survery visit wigan.gov.uk/Leighpublicspacesconsultation.