Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Written evidence from Nacro (ASB 06)

I am writing in response to your call for written evidence ahead of the Committee stage of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. Nacro, the crime reduction charity, would like to draw Honourable Members attention to Part 1 of the Bill, and the negative impact which elements of this legislation could have on reducing crime and reoffending in communities.

Under Part 1 of the new Bill, a new civil order, the Injunction to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNA), will replace the current stand-alone Anti-social Behaviour Order, and expand the definition of anti-social behaviour to include "conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance". The number of possible activities that could fall under this more nebulous definition causes Nacro – an organisation which works directly with young offenders – great concern. Worryingly, this broader definition would be assessed on the basis of a civil burden of proof unlike an ASBO which requires a criminal burden of proof. In addition, given that the injunction can apply to those as young as 10, these measures risk the unnecessary criminalisation of young children. The evidence shows that the earlier someone is introduced to the criminal justice system, the more difficult it is to change their situation. The worse someone does at school, the less work experience they are likely to have; the more time they spend associating with those from the criminal world, the more likely they are to commit crime. 

Nacro welcomes the opportunity to re-evaluate ASBOs. They were often misused and ineffective at tackling the problems to which they were applied. In addition, Nacro welcomes the new provision to enable courts to place positive sanctions on IPNAs and Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) rather than simply negative and punitive requirements.

However, the Bill is in danger of
introducing a limited and ineffective tool ; making court orders more commonplace and less successful than previous sanctions; and issuing an unlimited suite of requirements that will be ineffective and unrealistic. The Bill focuses too heavily on non-serious behaviour, which is likely to waste police and court time and other precious resources. Instead, the Bill should be dedicated to tackling and preventing criminal activity and providing the police, local government and community organisations with the appropriate tools to tackle pernicious, complex and criminal anti-social behaviour in our communities.

Anti-social behaviour is a multi-faceted problem which requires a smart and effective response. It blights lives and communities, and if left unchallenged can all too often lead to an individual entering a destructive cycle of crime.

Nacro welcomes a renewed focus on measures to tackle anti-social behaviour. But sounding tough is not the same as being effective and blanket approaches rarely work.

We need to tackle anti-social behaviour in an intelligent way: getting in early with those most likely to commit acts of anti-social behaviour and steering them towards playing a more positive and constructive role in their communities.
The most effective ways to do this do not include early entry into the justice system.

We should be investing in proven and effective interventions and implementing these interventions sufficiently early to stop the problem before it escalates from nuisance to harm. We must adopt measures which change attitudes and behaviour, address drug and alcohol problems, and ensure young people take responsibility for their actions and repair any damage that they have caused to their local communities.

We need to address these issues, rather than take steps to introduce new orders that fail to address the causes of an individual’s anti-social behaviour.  

June 2013

Prepared 20th June 2013