First London fine for catcalling dished out after undercover operation
Redbridge Council is the first local authority in London to give a man a fixed fine of £100 for molesting a woman in the street.
The £100 fine was imposed on a man in Ilford, east London, on December 16 for sexual harassment under a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). The City Council commissioned an undercover special operation in Ilford town center where Redbridge Police officers witnessed the harassment of a woman and arrested the suspect with the help of local police.
The PSPO used for law enforcement was The Prostitution Related Activity Public Spaces Protection Order, which came into effect on August 20, 2021. The PSPO empowers Council Enforcement Officers to fine anyone who solicits sex or engages in verbally abusive behavior and applies throughout the Borough of Redbridge.
Redbridge said using this PSPO to address and penalize street harassment sets a precedent that other councils can now use to penalize harassment with existing PSPOs.
The man must pay the £100 fine within 28 days or go to court and risk being jailed. In a separate episode of the operation, officers also arrested a man for assault related to domestic violence and possession of a gun. Cllr Jas Athwal, Chair of Redbridge Council and London Council’s Crime and Public Protection Executive, said: “We are the first council in London to use our Public Space Protection Order to tackle obituaries and harassment. We support undercover police operations in the district to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.”
Athwal continued, “This punishment is a strong start and will serve as a statement of intent. We will not tolerate harassment of women or girls and will take action against men who fail to heed this warning. We are reclaiming our streets for our local communities and ending the culture of misogyny that begins with harassment and escalates to violence.”
There have been increasing calls for tougher legislation to combat behavior such as whistling, wolf whistling and many other forms of street harassment to which women are subjected. Parliament recently backed the Public Sexual Harassment Protection Act to make it easier for law enforcement to prosecute for harassment.
Councilor Khayer Chowdhury, Cabinet Member for Crime, Safety and Community Cohesion, said: “This is a working partnership between Redbridge Council and the Met Police to tackle street harassment against women and girls – a commitment we share as part of our response to the Redbridge Criminal Investigation Department. Women and girls have an absolute right to walk our streets without being called and harassed by men and to cooperate with the police, and we have zero tolerance.”
Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) are used to address antisocial behavior and ensure that public spaces can be used free of antisocial behavior. PSPOs are designed to help control behaviors that either affect, or are likely to affect, the quality of life of a local community.