Busker moved on from Romford town centre accuses police of ‘abuse of power’
PUBLISHED: 14:28 22 December 2015 | UPDATED: 16:57 22 December 2015
A busking campaigner, who was moved on from Romford town centre and banned for 48 hours, accused Havering police of “misusing” its power.
Jonny Walker, 35, from Yorkshire, a folk singer-songwriter, was setting-up his small battery-powered amplifier on South Street on Friday at about 8.30pm when a police officer came over and issued him with a dispersal order after asking him for his “paperwork”.
But a Havering Council spokesman said there is no need for any licence to busk in Romford town centre.
Mr Walker, who had not started playing one note when the police officer issued the ban, said: “What I do is not illegal as long as I don’t cause any nuisance or obstruction.”
“This is an abuse of police powers and a serious misuse of that piece of legislation,” he told the Recorder and added he hoped for an apology.
A Havering Police spokesman said they were aware of the use of the Section 35 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 by one of their officers to move on the busker.
“At this time we are satisfied that this was used appropriately but we are reviewing. This is still a fairly new piece of legislation but its use within the town centre of Romford has helped to curb ASB and violence incidents,” he said.
“We encourage all of our officers to use as part of the tactics to help maintain order in Romford town centre.”
A professional busker of 15 years who tours the country, Mr Walker said having never been to Romford before and it was the first time he had been issued with the section 35 order.
“He [officer] didn’t give me a lawful reason but that I was going to cause anti-social behaviour. But busking is a social behaviour.”
He described the officer as becoming “very aggressive” and “quite threatening” and explained giving the officer’s his details “because I was afraid of being arrested and not because I was doing anything wrong”.
“What ever is going on in Romford on a Friday night, the last thing the police should be concerned about is someone singing a song,” he added.
Mr Walker also runs the campaign Keep Street Live!, which lobbies councils for buskers’ rights and for people to use the public space to play music and, he believes, makes the streets “safer, more welcoming and gives a sense of community”.
After thinking he would never return to Romford, he added: “I would actually be very happy to come back and give the people of Romford a free concert on the streets.
Under existing law, there is no need for a permit to busk and it is to the discretion of councils to demand for buskers to apply for a licence.