The PSPO aims to prevent intimidation, harassment and distress.
Council officers were tasked with investigating and identifying options following a motion at full council on 10 October 2017. The motion was in response to a petition presented by pro-choice group Sister Supporter calling for the council to end intimidation and harassment of service users when visiting the sexual health clinic on Mattock Lane. The motion received cross-party support.
Since July 2017, council officers have been investigating concerns that have been raised and gathering evidence.
From the evidence gathered, 11 potential options were identified to manage the behaviours outside the clinic including a compromise agreement, alterations to the clinic and patient arrival arrangements, byelaws and a PSPO.
Council leader Julian Bell and local ward councillor Binda Rai participated in a Home Affairs Select Committee hearing on 12 December which is looking at the national situation. Councillors Bell and Rai provided evidence on a local level regarding what powers a local authority had. MPs also heard from clinic staff and pro-life groups.
Councillors from all parties and council officers have met with local pro-choice and pro-life groups to discuss if a mutual agreement could be made between the parties. It now appears that this is unlikely to be achieved.
Considering all options, council officers think a PSPO is potentially the most appropriate measure to protecting people entering and passing through the area outside the clinic from being intimidated and distressed.
However, a decision on whether or not to make a PSPO will only be made once the consultation process has been completed and it is known whether or not the statutory criteria are met, including whether a PSPO will be a necessary and proportionate response to the issues that have been identified.
Council leader Julian Bell said: “We are committed to ending the intimidation and harassment faced by those seeking legally available medical support, but we are hamstrung by the powers we have available. We will do what we can locally but our powers are limited. We are pleased that the government has responded to the pressure from Ealing and other local authorities and is looking at a national solution.”
If cabinet approve the commencement of statutory consultation into a potential PSPO then this will last eight weeks. This means consulting with residents, police, clinic users, and interested groups.