Young people; banned for life from the Westfield?

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I am just back from a day at the Marxism 2012 festival. For one reason and another the only talk I got to hear was Alan Kenny on the Olympics and East London. A number of people spoke from the floor, including a youth worker who’d been driven out of his job after pointing out that the various “volunteering” opportunities being offered at the Olympics weren’t volunteering at all, but unpaid work for major corporations. There was the Hackney resident who had been made to attend a corporate presentation on the joy of the Olympics, at which the police had tried desperately to close down any questions about transport or legacy. An out-of-work artist complained that all funding for arts projects in schools has been gobbled up by the so called “Cultural Olympiad” (and this is something that other people have also complained to me about). There was talk of hospitals closing their doors for the duration of the Games, and fears (unsurprisingly) of the 24-hour Olympic courts.

But most interesting of all was a solicitor from East London who complained that in the Youth and Magistrates Courts, young people convicted of any crime (theft, public order, assault) are already receiving bans excluding them from Stratford as a matter of routine. Worse still, she described young people being banned for life from the Westfield shopping centre. She is someone I have known for more than a decade, and I trust her when she describes what’s happening. But this did make me wonder; under what conceivable power could a private company ban anyone for life from entering its property?

Any readers who have had direct experience of this – please email me at davidkrenton[at]gmail.com.

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4 responses »

  1. Umm, how can a private company ban someone for life from entering it’s property? That’s the law…

    Shopping centres and the path to your front door both have an implied right of access, and I can walk on both without fear of trespassing. However, if you withdraw my access, simply by telling me, I’m no longer allowed on your private property. Some people use this to good effect on TV licensing operatives – I believe you can ban them from knocking on your door!

    So back to your original question, how can a private company *not* be able to ban someone? It’s the nature of property!

    • I’ve been at Marxism all day and have only been able to “approve” both these comments this evening. (I think the way the software works is that after I’ve approved a commenter once, that is equivalent to a “lifetime pass”, i.e. any further comments go up automatically and immediately). It’s a shame these didn’t go up sooner as I think Glenn’s is an answer of sorts to Oli’s.

      Yes, a home owner can deny entry to a trespasser, but the scenario is more complex in at least three respects:

      i) A shopping centre isn’t quite like a private home. It always has at least a partly-public function (eg if you’re talking about the only shopping centre for 20 miles).

      ii) A shopping centre like the Westfield is much more like a public space than most shopping centres (Glenn’s point) – it incorporates the main walkways between other public spaces, and probably – although I can’t swear to this – some public buildings (eg post offices).

      iii) If I refuse one TV licensing person access fair enough, but if I was to hang a note outside my door saying “all TV licensing workers are banned from entering for ever”, I would expect the licensing folk to take other steps to enforce the statutory licensing scheme – eg (if I wasn’t paying) by prosecuting me in the magistrates court, which requires no entry permit.

      It’s the same, to my mind, with the Westfield. There’s all the difference in the world between banning a 16 year old for 6 months (i.e. until they grow up), but for life? If I was that person’s lawyer, I’d be seriously digging around – and asking myself even if the person who made this ban had legal possession of the space (are they the freeholder? do they have title which is likely to last for my client’s lifetime? etc etc).

      • i) Not in the eyes of the law… Private property is private is private.
        ii) Alas, there are no doubt many convenient walkways across private land, but the law is an ass, and that private property is private is private. Post Office branches are run by Post Office Counters Ltd, a private company, and even if they were something public like a GP, you’re still out of luck.
        iii) Yes, yes they can. Your private property still remains your private property, just in the TV case they have other ways to get to you. Your client does not.

        The ban can be considered to last indefinitely while they are in possession, and yes, would evaporate when they are not. Doesn’t mean it can’t be made now – after all, they might renew the lease in 999 years time!

  2. I would have thought that the owner of private property is entitled to ban anyone they like from it whether that be their home, offices or shopping centre. The issue is the privatisation of what was, or is perceived to be, public space such as Westfields and Canary Wharf.

    What happens when you need to pass through what is now private land to get to your destination, eg walking from Stratford station to the Olympic venue (via Westfield) or from Limehouse to Poplar on the bus (via Canary Wharf) and you are banned. Or if the only shopping centre or park near you was privatised and you were unjustly (a matter of opinion of course) banned from it.

    As councils have their budgets cut and sell-on land to developers in exchange for a little housing, a park and a new road these problems will only increase with young people and those organising being hardest hit no doubt.

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