Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Which Part Of ‘Private Property’ Don’t You Understand?

Katherine Astill (sector advocacy officer at Bond, the UK membership body of NGOs working in international development, and no, I’ve no idea what that means either!) is, like most state-coddled left-wingers, a little hazy on the subject of property rights:
It doesn't take much to be threatened with arrest in a shopping centre.
Ah, I bet this is a column about the misuse of police powers over photographers!

Ah. No. Clearly, the thought of a member of the public getting harassed for a perfectly legal activity isn’t even on Kathy’s radar:
Campaigners for better working conditions in Bangladeshi factories recently tried to collect signatures from a shopping centre pavement near an out-of-town Asda. Security guards called the police, who were kind but clear: the activists must leave the shopping centre.
Oh, shame..!
They tried their luck on a roundabout. Nobody passed and the campaigners went home.
*snigger*
One commonplace episode; one more blow to civil-society activism by over-mighty owners of quasi-public space.
It’s their property, Kathy. What’s so difficult to understand about that?
"Quasi-public space" is land that is open to all comers but which is under private ownership – classically, the public areas of shopping centres. As the law stands, owners of quasi-public space have absolute discretion over who can enter their property and what they can do there. Anyone remaining on their property without consent is liable for trespass.
If the mall owners thought that having screaming lefties demonstrating about whatever the cause du jour was would bring in customers, they’d probably offer you a unit free of charge.

But they don’t. Ever wonder why?
Owners of quasi-public spaces have too much political power.
It’s nothing to do with political power, you dozy mare! They aren’t your political opponents, excluding you for political reasons. They could care less what your beef is.

All they want to do is keep paying customers coming through the doors, and anything that looks like it might frighten customers away is going to get their backs up.
Planning and retail trends have transformed the urban landscape over the last decades, with privately owned malls and out-of-town shopping centres replacing high streets as destinations for shopping, but also for spending leisure time and socialising. These places where people congregate are important sites for public protest.
Translation: ‘Wah! Not fair! They should have to listen to me, damn it!’ *stamps feet*
The coalition government is about to publish a draft freedom bill, intended to remove obstacles to peaceful protest. Restrictions on protest in quasi-public space topped a survey of NGO network Bond's 370 members on the issues they wanted to see in the freedom bill.
Quelle surprise…
We canvassed the local campaigners who spend their weekends manning stalls and handing out leaflets to improve the lives of poor people in far-off countries, the activists who are being expelled from formerly public squares where they campaigned for dropping the debt of the poorest countries and for spending 0.7% of GDP on international development.
I notice you didn't ask the shoppers, who presumably might have said they'd prefer to get their groceries without being harangued by scabrous left wing trash agitating for one-legged lesbian orangutans....

Naturally, this can all be resolved peacefully if we just give Kathy and her minions the right to ride roughshod over everyone else’s property rights.
We propose an exception to the law of trespass in quasi-public spaces, subject to protestors behaving reasonably.
I propose a right for me to enter your house and sleep on your sofa, provided I don’t snore too loudly. How does that sound, Kathy?
The right fairly balances the rights of the landowner and the campaigner.
No, it doesn’t.

Look, my local shopping malls all happily accommodate the British Legion, the Guide Dogs for the Blind, disability charities and others. The supermarkets do bucket collections at the tills for charities on occasion. They seem to have no problem as it is with people ‘advertising’ for the disadvantaged.

So if your little mobs are being chased off by police, perhaps that says more about them and their behaviour than about the landowners?

14 comments:

richard said...

"Quasi public property" would include pubs. Smokers are chased away, but it's not through the choice of the landlord. So, the State interferes with private property rights to discriminate against smokers! I agree with your post, of course, but if a private landlord can expel demonstrators, why can't a private landlord admit smokers? Unless, of course the State is a bullying waste of space, time and money, and inconsistent in upholding rights an and when it suits them.

BenS said...

Richard: Quite. But are you looking for consistency in the government's actions? I fear you'll be looking for a long time...

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Well said Julia.

I frequently walk the short distance between the two main line railway stations of one of Britain's larger cities.

The great thing about actually arriving in the precinct of the destination station, is that at that point you leave all the chuggers, free-newspaper-pushers, handout distributors, beggars, etc behind - because, I assume, Network Rail have a similarly robust attitude towards these nuisances.

Hooray for customer service!

Anonymous said...

People like this make me chuckle.

I for one couldn't give a rat's arse about the people in Bangladesh. If Bangladeshis feel aggrieved enough about their working conditions, they'll eventually do something about it.

The shouty antics of a bunch of over-privileged Lefty Sloanes matters not one jot in the grand scheme of things. I doubt anyone in Bangladesh is even aware of this silly cow's 'stance' and they'd probably only giggle if they were...

Fuck me but I hate Socialists...

sobers said...

What I don't understand is this - if I as a private landowner have trespassers, and call the police, they will say thats its a civil matter, and decline to do anything. Why can the private owners of a shopping mall call the police and get them to do their bidding? Whats the difference?

Quiet_Man said...

Now, now Sobers, you aren't supposed to ask questions like that. Common sense and the actions of the "Righteous" rarely coincide.

Chalcedon said...

@sobers: I expect it is to do with a breach of the peace or a potential breach of the peace. that's the difference. Also there is criminal tresspass too and that law might cover it.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if she would have leapt so readily to the defence of a group like the BNP?

sobers said...

@Chalcedon: If a bunch of travellers turn up on my land, and I want them to leave, and try to make them, I reckon a breach of the peace is pretty much guaranteed. But the police will probably arrest me for antagonising them.

And as for criminal trespass, you have to show that the property is out of bounds for the public (locked/fenced off) and there is criminal intent on the part of the trespasser (theft/damage). None of which apply to a privately owned open space used by the public, such as a shopping mall. Definition here: http://www.ehow.com/facts_5017334_criminal-trespassing.html

So I repeat why do the police do the bidding of private landowners in some instances and not others (such as people whose houses are invaded by Eastern European squatters for example)?

quasi-public-person said...

"subject to protestors behaving reasonably"

Of course! Secondary picketing, attacking people's homes, stopping the free passage of people going about their lawful business... Yep, the lefties always act "reasonably" and if you disagree just how reasonable they are they'll thump you.

'Sorry officer, I wuz jamming this steel pole through McDonald's window cos I is being reasonable, innit?"

ivan said...

Being a bit pedantic but I think this line - 'They could care less what your beef is' - should be - 'They couldn't care less what your beef is' to have the correct sense of what you are saying.

Anonymous said...

British police now only do whatever they can't get away with not doing Sobers. They haven't been doing actual policing since around 1979. Britain generally is too stupid to care, so they more or less get away with not doing much at all.
Richard points to the madness involved - not only do pubs have to reject smokers, they are allowed to sell the most dangerous drug in the country, whilst banning one with a third of its 'Nutt Score'.
Julia will know just what trespass is all about after a visit from the Royal Society For the Prevention of Cruelty To One-legged Lesbian Orang-outangs - the industry sector enforcement organisation.

JuliaM said...

"So, the State interferes with private property rights to discriminate against smokers!"

Yup, a very good point.

"...because, I assume, Network Rail have a similarly robust attitude towards these nuisances."

I think they must do. They probably quote 'safety concerns'.

"The shouty antics of a bunch of over-privileged Lefty Sloanes matters not one jot in the grand scheme of things."

I would say it keeps them out of trouble, but...

"Why can the private owners of a shopping mall call the police and get them to do their bidding? Whats the difference?"

They have money. And council influence.

"I wonder if she would have leapt so readily to the defence of a group like the BNP?"

We'll see how many CiF columns spring up demanding the Tories overturn their decision to allow teachers who are members of the BNP - a legal political party - to be banned from teaching, shall we?

JuliaM said...

"...should be - 'They couldn't care less what your beef is' to have the correct sense of what you are saying."

I'm afraid I succumb to the occasional Americanism from time to time!

"British police now only do whatever they can't get away with not doing Sobers."

Very true!