Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Written evidence from Social Landlords Crime and Nuisance Group (ASB 25)

1 Introduction to the Social Landlords Crime and Nuisance Group

1.1 The Social Landlords Crime and Nuisance Group (SLCNG) is a national membership body of registered providers of social housing.

1.2 Tackling anti –social behaviour (ASB) is core business for our 300 plus members who have a proven track record of positive achievement stretching back almost two decades.

1.3 Our members manage around 3.5 million homes throughout the UK.

1.4 We believe that ASB can be tackled effectively and that no one should have to suffer its damaging effects.

2 Opening statement

2.1 The SLCNG supports the Bill’s objectives and considers that it has the capacity to make a positive contribution towards improving outcomes for victims and witnesses of ASB.

2.2 The centrality of "protecting individuals and communities from harm" is a message that the SLCNG is particularly anxious to stress.

2.3 We do, however, consider that some specific proposals are capable of further improvement. Details of those are given in this submission together with our recommendations.

3 Summary of main points

3.1 Provision needs to be made for applications for Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNA) that involve multiple defendants who span the age threshold to be heard together in the same court. To do so would avoid the risk of placing added burdens on witnesses and incurring additional costs and resources for the applicant.

3.2 We would like to see the Bill set maximum timescales for hearing applications for IPNAs and for hearings for breach: we recommend that the maximum period should be 28 days.

3.3 The power provided by the IPNA to exclude persons from their home address in appropriate circumstances should not be restricted to persons resident in social housing. The IPNA should retain the ability of the current Anti-social Behaviour Injunction (ASBI) on which it is closely modelled for the court to exclude persons from their home regardless of their tenure.

3.4 The criteria for issuing Community Protection Notices (CPNs) should be amended to clarify that that a CPN may be issued in respect of noise nuisance which consistently accounts for around one third of all complaints of anti-social behaviour to housing providers.

4 Comments on specific proposals within the Bill

4.1 In this section we provide comment and recommendations, where appropriate, on specific proposals set out in the Bill.

4.2 Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNA)

4.2.1 Section 1(8) Power to grant injunctions. The Bill as currently framed will require separate proceedings in different courts for proceedings against two or more individuals that span the age threshold (e.g. where action is necessary against a group of individuals some of whom are adults and others are minors) in some instances. This will impose added burdens on witnesses and incur additional costs and resources for the applicant for the injunction.

4.2.2 To avoid this circumstance, we suggest that provision is made for ‘cross-generational’ proceedings relating to the same case (from a victim’s perspective) to be heard together in the same court.

4.2.3 Section 2(4) (c) Requirements included in injunctions. The Bill does not indicate when the obligation on the person responsible for supervising compliance to inform the applicant for the injunction and the Chief Officer of Police arises (e.g. whether at the end of the duration of the requirement or after each and every appointment is missed). Furthermore, the person responsible for supervising compliance may not be the person/organisation who applied for the injunction. There needs, therefore, to be a mechanism for ensuring that the responsible person is notified of their obligation.

4.2.4 It is noted also that that a power of arrest may not be attached to a positive requirement set out in the injunction. The requirement, therefore, to notify the Chief Officer of Police of every instance/case where a positive requirement has not been met may unnecessarily overload the police with additional paperwork.

4.2.5 In light of these observations we would suggest that:

1. the requirement to inform is more clearly defined.

2. provision is made to ensure that the person responsible for supervising compliance is fully aware of their obligation to inform the applicant and Chief Officer of Police.

3. consideration is given to removing the requirement to inform the Chief Officer of Police in all cases in respect of compliance with positive requirements.

4.2.6 Section 7(1) Variation or discharge of injunctions. The Bill should be amended to enable a variation to the injunction to be applied for by an appropriate body other than the original applicant. To do so would overcome issues arising where the original applicant, who may no longer have the problem, has to seek the variation or discharge of the injunction on behalf of the new area/organisation having problems. The alternative would be that fresh proceedings are initiated for a new injunction which would bring the risk of duplication, confusion and additional costs.

4.2.7 Provision needs also to be made for circumstances where, for example, the respondent moves to another area and causes problems which still amount to breach of their IPNA. Where these arise, how would this affect any subsequent breach of the order in terms of who would be classed as the original applicant for the purpose of informing and which police force would require notification etc?

4.2.8 The Section should also specify the timescale within which the notification has to be made.

4.2.9 Sections 8(3) (a) and 8(4) Arrest without warrant. Since the High Court and the County Court may make an injunction in respect of persons over 18 years, this section requires amendment to reflect the position where a person

arrested for breaching an injunction made by the High Court should be brought before a judge of the High Court.

4.2.10 Section 8(4) which disregards Christmas Day, Good Friday and any Sunday for the purposes of calculating the 24 hour period within which a person arrested must be brought before the court should be amended to include all Bank/Public holidays in the disregards.

4.2.11 The Bill is currently silent on the timescales within which applications for IPNAs should be heard. We recommend the setting of maximum timescales for hearing applications for IPNAs and for hearings for breach. We suggest that the legislation include a prescribed timescale based upon the existing Civil Procedure Rules 1998 in respect of ASBI proceedings.

4.2.12 Schedule 1 Section 2 deals with remand but does not set a timescale: we think that it should do so in order to prevent enforcement becoming protracted and potentially ineffective in consequence.

4.2.13 Section 12(1) Power to exclude person from home in cases of violence or risk of harm. We are concerned that, unlike the current ASBI, the power to exclude persons from their home address is restricted to residents of social housing only, meaning that people living in owned or privately rented property will not in future be able to be excluded from their home address. In our opinion this weakens the legislation and the current ability of housing providers to provide protection for all victims consistently. We recommend, therefore, that this power should be available across all tenures.

4.2.14 Section 14(1)(b) Requirement to consult etc: Whilst appreciating that the requirement for an applicant for an injunction to ‘inform any other body or individual they think appropriate’ is intended to limit bureaucracy, we think that the requirement as currently drafted risks defendants using it ex post facto to criticise the procedure and undermine the orders by saying consultation was ineffective.

4.2.15 We suggest that there is a need for this duty to be clarified, possibly within statutory guidance, and that there is a need to set time limits for replies to notifications.

4.3 Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO)

4.3.1 Section 24(1) and (2) Duration of order etc.: In some circumstances the terms of the CBO will be intended to commence on a future date that coincides with an individual’s release from detention/prison. The Bill as currently drafted does not provide this facility as it seems to require the Order to date from the hearing date. The Bill, therefore, should be amended to enable an Order to commence from a future date in the circumstances described.

4.4 Community protection notices

4.4.1 Section 40(5) Power to issue notices. The provision as currently framed suggests that noise nuisance in many instances may not be treatable by a Community Protection Notice (CPN). Noise nuisance consistently accounts for around one third of all complaints of antisocial behaviour to housing providers and we consider that it would be a seriously retrograde step to exclude noise nuisance from the jurisdiction of the CPN. We recommend that this sub clause is removed or otherwise suitably amended to clarify that a CPN may be used to resolve incidences of noise nuisance.

4.5 Closure orders

4.5.1 Section 73(1) Power of court to make closure order. This measure restricts applications for Closure Orders to the Magistrates Court alone. We suggest that the Order should also be available in the County Court in appropriate circumstances to avoid unnecessary additional burdens on witnesses, applicants and the Courts’ system. By making the Order available in the County Court it would allow Closure Order proceedings to be combined with Injunction applications or possession proceedings, for example.

4.6 Recovery of possession of dwelling-house: anti-social behaviour grounds

4.6.1 Section 91(1) Offences connected with riot. We have reservations as to whether this provision will be practically operable and anticipate that it will be rarely, if ever, used. For completeness though, we would suggest that if the provision is to be retained that other, equally or more serious offences, such as murder and rape should be included.

4.7 Local involvement and accountability

4.7.1 Section 93 The community remedy document disposals etc. The policing body should be required expressly to consult with the local authority and housing providers.

5 Conclusion

5.1 Protecting people from harm is central to the purpose of housing providers and ASB Practitioners who are supportive of the objectives of the Bill and of many of the measures it contains. Some further amendments are required in a limited number of areas in our opinion and we are committed to continuing to work with all relevant stakeholders on those issues.

5.2 The measures set out in the Bill are designed for a multi-agency environment in which agencies individually and collectively are publicly accountable for addressing the issues that matter most to local people. In this environment the effectiveness of partnerships will be of critical importance to delivering positive outcomes and maximising the effective deployment of valuable resources. We would urge that the opportunity is now taken to ensure that partnerships are more universally effective and that all agencies involved in delivering relevant services, including preventative and supportive interventions, engage meaningfully.

5.3 We also urge that the vital attendant processes (e.g. exchanging information between agencies; and delays within the courts’ processes) that facilitate, but all too often frustrate, timely action are addressed positively. We support the ACPO recommendation that an overt positive requirement for Community Safety Partners to pro-actively share information be considered.

5.4 We are particularly mindful of experience of introducing the Anti Social Behaviour Injunction (ASBI) on which the proposed IPNA is closely modelled and which resulted in the utility and success of the then new injunctive remedy being unpredictable until the higher courts ruled on contested points of interpretation. In the interests of efficiency, effectiveness and most of all of victims, we cannot afford for those experiences to be repeated here. It is essential in our view that all relevant stakeholders, including the courts, are fully trained in advance in the application of the new measures and that the extensive body of case law built up over recent years is preserved.

June 2013

Prepared 2nd July 2013