What is a dispersal zone?
Dispersal Zones are strictly-defined geographical areas in which certain powers granted to the police under Sections 34 and 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act apply.
They can be put in place by a certain rank of police officer (an inspector or higher) for a limited period of time and apply to anyone entering the zone who the police suspect is causing or likely to cause crime, nuisance or anti-social behaviour.
What powers does it give the police?
Police officers or community support officers can order anyone they suspect of the above to leave the area where the dispersal zone applies for a maximum of 48 hours.
If that person refuses to leave the area or returns within the time the dispersal zone is in place, they are in breach of the legislation and an offence will have been committed.
A police officer then has the power to arrest that person.
What do the police have to do when implementing one?
The police must have reasonable grounds that the use of dispersal powers is necessary to deter or prevent members of the community being harassed, alarmed or distressed or the occurrence of crime and disorder.
The authorising officer must put his/her grounds in writing and keep a record.
We then have to publicise the existence of the dispersal zone to the community who will be affected by it, including those who the police may use their temporary powers against. The dispersal zone must be outlined on a map and made public.
After 48 hours the dispersal zone can no longer apply, however a new one can be out in place and the must be authorised and publicised in the same way.
Is there anyone the dispersal zone cannot apply to?
The police cannot direct anyone to leave the area if the officer does not have reasonable grounds to suspect that they are causing or likely to cause anti-social behaviour, nuisance or crime.
When an authorisation under section 34 is in force, a police officer or PCSO in uniform who has given a direction to disperse to a person they reasonably believe to be aged over 10 but under 16 years of age, may also take them home, or to a place of safety.