Gabriel Chamberlain, aged 45, of no fixed address, was given a Community Behaviour Order restricting his access to the city centre after being prosecuted for inappropriate use of Oxford’s public toilets.
Last month Oxford City Council, Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council launched a joint taskforce to tackle open drug dealing and drug taking in Oxford. The Oxford Public Spaces Drugs Taskforce was a direct response to rising concerns from Oxford residents about the amount of drug dealing and drug use taking place in public spaces. The number of discarded needles found in public places has also been increasing.
Mr Chamberlain was discovered in Gloucester Green public toilets by an Oxford City Council street scene supervisor and their colleague at about 7pm on 11 February 2018. The supervisor asked Mr Chamberlain to leave the public toilets as they were due to close for the night. When the supervisor returned at 8pm to close the toilets, Mr Chamberlain was still in the cubicle and refused to leave.
The City Council supervisor, in a witness statement to the court, said: “During this incident I could see lots of drug paraphernalia coming out of the cubicle he had been in. These were syringes with blood in them, metal trays and citric pouches. There were members of the public trying to use the public toilets but because of this incident they walked away.
“I eventually managed to get Chamberlain out of the toilets at 21.04 hours and he had blood running down his arm. I went into the cubicle and the walls and floors were covered in blood and littered with his possessions.”
Mr Chamberlain was found guilty in his absence of breaching the city centre Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on 4 October 2018. He was sentenced, again in his absence, at the same court on 16 October 2018.
Oxford City Council, given there was no evidence that Mr Chamberlain was employed, asked the court to impose the lowest possible fine. The court chose to impose a fine of £80. The successful prosecution enabled the City Council to apply for a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) to be imposed on Mr Chamberlain – a CBO can only be applied for when an individual is convicted for a criminal offence.
The CBO restricts Mr Chamberlain from:
- entering or remaining in Oxford city centre, with the exception of Speedwell Street and Luther Street to access the homelessness services, Oxford Police Station and the courts
- using or threatening violence, or behaving in a manner that causes harassment, alarm or distress, to any person in England and Wales
- leaving, storing, discarding or abandoning items in a public place, or failing to dispose of waste items other than in a public waste receptacle or bin, in England and Wales
- leaving, storing, discarding or abandoning any hypodermic needle, bong, pipe or other material or item associated with drug use in any place other than a public waste receptacle or bin in England and Wales
The CBO against Mr Chamberlain will be in place until 16 October 2020. Breaching a CBO is a criminal offence. In asking for the CBO, Oxford City Council provided to the court a list of 25 incidents in support of the CBO application. These included:
- engaging in drug taking, criminal damage, fouling and graffiti in Gloucester Green car park on 16 March 2017
- on 11 April, Mr Chamberlain was given an injunction banning him from private area of the underground car park at Gloucester Green
- causing an obstruction to people using Frewin Court by camping there on 23 June and 6 October 2017. Drugs paraphernalia was found in and around the tent on both occasions
- stealing a bicycle from Friars Entry on 23 June 2017
- on 4 and 5 November 2017, and 12, 20, 24 and 25 February 2018, Mr Chamberlain breached the injunction restricting him from the private parking area of the underground car park at Gloucester Green
The City Council’s approach to enforcing its anti-social behaviour policies, requires officers to try to resolve cases at the lowest level of intervention possible. In the vast majority of cases, people comply with reasonable requests from City Council officers to stop their anti-social behaviour.
Councillor Tom Hayes, Executive Board Member for a Safer and Greener Environment, said: “Anti-social behaviour and drugs problems are the biggest community safety issues facing Oxford. After listening to concerns and seeing this unacceptable behaviour for ourselves, the City Council set about trying to prevent negative impacts in our communities, working with the individual concerned, and tackling the underlying causes.
“The successful application for an Order has been the result. I want to thank the hard work of our public sector workers to support everyone involved and deal robustly negative impacts on our neighbourhoods. This order will ensure Oxford is a safer place to live, work and visit.
“I encourage people to report issues to us directly, especially concerning drugs. We have to be told at the time that a problem is occurring so we have the opportunity to deal with it. When reporting concerns about drugs, the public should have every confidence that they will hear back within a few short days from our new Drugs Taskforce and, again, within a few short weeks to share updates on how we’re making a difference.”