18. Memorandum submitted by Manchester
1. The Nuisance Strategy Group has, for
almost 10 years, acted to stop anti-social behaviour and prevent
2. We have a significant body of experience
of detailed casework and have secured some 4,500 successful legal
actions to protect individual witnesses and the wider community
around them. Our principal and main focus is the protection of
witnesses and communities. Whilst we rarely evict or imprison
perpetrators, we will do so wherever this is necessary.
3. However our preferred legal tool is the
Injunction (either Housing Law Injunctions or Anti-social Behaviour
Orders). Our experience is that these work and have lasting impact.
Injunctive action is fast and effective in offering urgent protection
to witnesses and avoids unnecessary social exclusion.
4. We have recognised, both in Manchester
and from our observations of casework in other parts of the country,
that eviction in and of itself and the use of possession notices
do nothing to protect witnesses and, indeed can (by themselves)
put witnesses at greater riska warning shot across the
bows of the perpetrator can land in the witnesses' living room.
5. This is why we have, from their inception,
committed to the use and development of the injunctive ASBO. We
have never regarded them as an order of last resort, but as an
authoritative and credible establishment of a sustainable standard
of behaviour which can be owned and policed by our communities.
We are clear that this is an order for witnesses, designed to
give them respite and relief from anti-social behaviour of perpetrators.
The amendments introduced by the Police Reform Act, if they can
be made functional, are the significant step forward, providing
an ex parte form of the order which protects the witness
and gives notice of action to the perpetrator only after the order
has been made. This and the availability of the ASBO in the County
Court will create real advances in the protection of our communities.
We must, however, realistically make the Committee aware that
these potential advances are not fully realised and face hostility
and oppositions from both risk-averse advocates and from legal
advisors to Magistrates' benches.
6. The additional failure of the justice
system signified by failure across the Country to use committal
for proven breaches continues to threaten to bring the ASBO into
disrepute with the witnesses and communities they are designed
7. The experience we have of the span of
service provision on anti-social behaviour includes an observation
of a tendency to imbalance. Services for perpetrators massively
outweigh any service for witnesses. The functioning of the justice
systems (criminal and civil) has little or no regard for the health,
safety, well-being, or interests of witnesses. This intolerance
fosters and sustains distrust within our communities so that witnesses,
sometimes terrorised by perpetrators, consider that the justice
system will inevitably make things worse for them rather than
8. We have the most serious concern that
the few orders focused exclusively on the needs and well-being
of witnesses and their communities might be adulterated with additions
which bend its focus onto the needs of the perpetrators (for their
support, diversion and rehabilitation). Witnesses need a clear
statement from the justice system that a part of it is functioning
for them. The ASBO is such a part of this system and must be sustained
with this clarity of purpose if it is to remain a credible and
creditable feature of our work.
9. As regards the effectiveness of the Order,
we are repeatedly perplexed at the aggressive and negative public
accounts of the functioning of ASBOs. In our experience, the publicity
which suggests a breach rate of 35% fails constantly to report
an effectiveness rate of 65%. The fact is that an order made tells
the community that the authorities have listened and acted to
protect them. This in itself is a huge success.
10. We do not use Acceptable Behaviour Contracts.
In the case of juveniles (where the anti-social behaviour doesn't
require urgent, ex parte applications) we conduct a formal
warning interview, confirmed in writing which uses our reputation
(as reported in both the media and leaflets) to establish an authoritative
and credible intervention. Because we have the justified reputation
of taking legal action whenever necessary, our warnings are heeded
more often than not. In two-thirds of all cases the warning is
sufficient to stop the anti-social behaviour.
11. Our observation of other areas' use
of ABCs does not lead us to consider adopting them. These areas
do not use Injunctions or ASBOs and the ABC offers nothing to
witnesses other than a potential prolongation of their distress.
12. The competence of the CPS to engage
in the application for orders or prosecution of breaches is at
best variable. Some crisp direction and training appears necessary.
13. Whilst District Judges and Magistrates
in Manchester have, in the main, recognised the injunctive, preventative
nature of the ASBO and the huge importance of appropriate (custodial)
disposals at breach, we observe our colleagues around the country
suffering reversal at application stage, both from benches and
from the negative advice provided by the Magistrates' Clerks.
Declarations by Courts of their impartiality are too often accompanied
by judges and their clerks using words like "Draconian"
about proposed terms and "juvenile" about the perpetrator
by way of refusing the making of Orders in terms which will effectively
protect witnesses. In fact they are acting as a second Defence
for perpetrators with such a focus on their needs and interests.
14. Confronted with the argument that the
ASBO is a process for criminalizing juveniles, we must point out
the majority are abided by and change
the behaviour and association of the subject for the better;
the majority of juvenile subjects
are already in the justice system which has, so far, not succeeded
in protecting the community from their behaviour; and, finally,
many of the orders are made to protect
other juveniles from the subject's behaviour.
15. Finally, we respectfully ask the Committee,
in reviewing the effective impacts of the various developing initiatives
on anti-social behaviour to establish the cost effectiveness of
these initiatives with regard to interests and well-being of the
16. We are clear that our legal interventions
have re-established standards in our communities in particular
cases which involve some 9,000 witnesses and the communities around
them. This action has established and nurtured aspirations for
security and well being in our City. We have, at the same time,
persuaded our Courts of the integrity of our evidence and the
proportionality of our applications in the terms which they are
17. Our concern is with balance in giving
our communities a reasonable expectation of supportive and effective
interventions whenever and wherever they report the destructive
anti-social behaviour which disrupts their peace, health and well-being.
30 November 2004