Thousands of Manchester United fans walking through Salford Quays on their way home from Old Trafford could face fines of up to £1,000 for using foul language, if Salford City Council manages to successfully implement its latest order. The North West authority plans to impose a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) banning swearing in Salford Quays, the prestigious home of the BBC's Media City.
Anyone caught using caught using foul and abusive language could face a £90 ($126) on-the-spot fine or even or a summons to court and a possible maximum penalty of £1,000.
But human rights group have questioned how the council plans to enforce the law as well as claiming the order would have a "chilling effect" on the right to freedom of expression.
In the letter to City Director Jim Taylor, Liberty's Rosie Brighouse urged Salford Council to clarify what consists foul and abusive behaviour. She also asks whether the use of foul and/or abusive language, with no-one around to hear it, still constitutes a criminal offence?
Taking the p***
Brighouse, Legal Officer for Liberty, said: "This is a staggering example of the misuse of a Public Space Protection Order – so vaguely worded it's impossible for anybody to know whether they're in danger of breaking the law.
"The right to say what we want should not be restricted at the whim of council officials, able to issue fixed penalty notices on the basis of a poorly defined legal order. Without the freedom to offend, real freedom of expression cannot exist."
Salford Council said the PSPO was approved by local residents as part of plans to battle anti-social behaviour in the area.
A spokesperson said: "Liberty are fully aware that a breach of a PSPO is only an offence if a person does a prohibited act without a reasonable excuse. That allows all the circumstances to be taken into account. I appreciate Liberty want publicity for their campaign against these orders but Salford City Council is not going to apologise for using national legislation to help Salford residents when their lives are being made a misery by anti-social behaviour.
"This order was introduced last summer after complaints from local residents about anti-social behaviour, including people throwing wheelie bins into the Quays and tampering with emergency lifesaving equipment.
"Over 130 local residents responded to the consultation about whether to introduce this order. Of those 76% were in favour of the order and 94% agreed with a ban on causing general disturbance including being abusive to other persons, using foul language, being rowdy and inconsiderate."