Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Written evidence from Baroness Newlove of Warrington, Victims Commissioner for England and Wales (ASB 09)

Parts 1- 6: Anti-Social Behaviour

Injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance (Part 1) and criminal behaviour orders (Part 2)

I welcome the general aims of the Bill to focus the response to anti-social behaviour on the needs of victims.

I also support the proposals to streamline the anti-social behaviour toolkit and replace the current nineteen powers available to frontline professionals to six. As the first point of contact for most victims of anti-social behaviour, it is important that police officers have the skills to support and protect them quickly and effectively. This includes having access to tools they are familiar with and find easy to use. I am confident that the criminal behaviour order will be used by the police to good effect.

However, I am concerned that the injunction to prevent nuisance and annoyance could potentially add to the workload of front line officers because of their lack of knowledge of civil law. I do recognise the benefits in that the burden of proof will be lower and it is likely to be an effective tool for local agencies (including the police) in low level offending cases to prevent further offending or an escalation in offending and thus will protect victims and other vulnerable people. But I am concerned that, in the case of the police, officers will tend to avoid using it as they are not familiar with civil law. Thus in order to get the best from this provision, I would recommend that police officers are properly trained in its use.

Community remedies (Part 6, Clause 93)

I welcome this provision as an effective means of involving and empowering communities to develop effective solutions for anti-social behaviour. It will help bring communities together and will help the police and local authorities to understand what is important to their local communities.

However, I am concerned that the current proposals on consultation might raise community expectations too much, given that the Chief of Police and the PCCs will have the final say on what is included in the community remedy document and individual officers will have the final say on what remedy is used in any individual case. I am also concerned that it could lead to significant force-by-force differences in the treatment of offenders of anti-social behaviour, and the remedies available to victims.

I would recommend instead that the government consult with the police, local authorities and other agencies to develop a list of nationally agreed and appropriate out of court disposals for anti-social behaviour. Local people could then be given the opportunity to decide which disposals on this list they would like to see operating within their community, so they can tailor it to the needs of that community, and included in their community remedy document.

Response to complaints about anti-social behaviour (Part 6, Clause 96)

I fully support the idea of a review of responses to complaints of anti-social behaviour. The fact that any individual can call for a review means that the anonymity of witnesses can be preserved. The first point of call for vulnerable victims when seeking help is likely to be support workers, friends, neighbours or their family, rather than the police or statutory agencies. This provides such individuals with a mechanism for securing action or assistance on the victim’s behalf.

My only concern with this provision is the requirement for a minimum number of qualifying complaints before an application for a review can be made. This is potentially problematic because it implies that a certain number of incidents are acceptable before any action needs to be taken by the authorities. For this reason the term "community trigger" should be avoided. Alternatives might include "community review" or "community alert".

For this provision to be effective, a great deal of work will need to be done with local communities to ensure that they are aware of the provision, how it works, how it should be used and what the benefits are. Police and Crime Commissioners will play a key role in this respect. PCCs will also be able to use the provision as an effective means of encouraging police forces and local agencies to identify repeat victims and other vulnerable community members and promote good practice in ensuring that they provide proper feedback to individuals and communities suffering anti social behaviour.

Part 10: Policing

Powers of local policing bodies to provide or commission services (clause 123)

I fully support this provision which would mean that Police and Crime Commissioners are responsible for commissioning the bulk of victims’ services. I believe that they are best placed to understand their community, the nature of crimes victims suffer and the support and help they might need. They are also best placed to provide the depth and breadth of services required to meet the individual needs and circumstances of victims. That variety and quality of support is missing from current service provision and cannot be provided at a national level. It is time to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach which simply does not work.

Police and Crime Commissioners are in the best position to ensure that the help victims and witnesses get matches up to what they need and have a right to expect. They will be able to identify the effective services currently operating in their area, including the small grass roots organisations working to support particular groups of people which have sprung up in response to specific needs within the community. Many of these organisations provide outstanding services to victims and witnesses which should be recognised and properly funded.

This is an excellent opportunity to engage with local people and assess what works for their community and what further resources are needed. It is a chance to define standards of care more clearly in partnership with victims and themselves and to work with the community to address gaps in provision and ensure that all services - from the biggest statutory agencies to the smallest specialist charities - work together to provide the best possible support .

Part 12: Criminal Justice and Court fees

Protection arrangements for persons at risk (Clause 134)

The type of protection arrangements provided to vulnerable victims should not be dependent on their willingness to be involved in criminal proceedings; it should be entirely dependent on the risk to their safety. I fully support these changes to current legislation which will help ensure that statutory based protection is available to all those who may need it.

Surcharges: imprisonment in default and remission of fines (Clause 135)

I support these amendments which will help ensure that more offenders take responsibility for their actions through payment of the Victims Surcharge. I believe that offenders given the most serious sentences should make the greatest contribution to victim support services.

June 2013

Prepared 20th June 2013