Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Written evidence from Lambeth Mediation Service (ASB 40)

Lambeth Mediation Service is a non-governmental organisation established in 1989 to provide a mediation service for the London Borough of Lambeth, and to spread knowledge and understanding of conflict resolution. It is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee, and a member of the Restorative Justice Council It has dealt mainly with neighbour disputes, many of which could fall within the definition of anti-social behaviour, but has also promoted mediation in schools and other settings, such as workplaces. It has a small staff, and most of its work is carried out by approximately 50 trained volunteers,15 of whom have received extra training for Neighbourhood Justice Panels, for which Lambeth is one of the pilot areas. Since the service started operation in 1989 over two thousand cases have been referred to it; of those that led to a face-to-face mediation, the great majority ended with an agreement. Follow-up monitoring has found that the great majority of agreements have been kept, but much of the benefit has been because of the communication between the parties and the removal of misunderstandings resulting from the mediation process.

1. Anti-social behaviour can have a serious impact on the quality of life of other members of the community, and clearly powers are needed to deal with it when other methods are not sufficient. We have however two main concerns about the Bill and its Explanatory Notes in their present form. The first is that the definition of anti-social behaviour is so broad as to draw in everyday nuisance which can be dealt with more satisfactorily through guided dialogue without the full force of the law, and the second is that it makes no provision for resolving as many cases as possible by mediation before invoking the law.

2. In addition we wish to point out that mediation is suitable cases can be very cost-effective compared with measures using law enforcement measures; these can be reserved for those cases where mediation cannot be used or has not resolved the issue. However it does require resources, and these should be provided from the savings made in other parts of the system.


3. We note that the Bill opens with powers to grant injunctions imposed on persons as young as 10, and the conditions under which this can be done do not include any requirement of an attempt at informal resolution or mediation; mediation is only mentioned in the Explanatory Notes. The definition in clause 94(6) states that "anti-social behaviour" means behaviour capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person, which could include almost anything, such as a single evening spent installing shelves with a power drill; it should include words such as 'serious' and 'persistent', or at least 'repeated'.

4. On the other hand the Explanatory Notes to clause 95 (1-2) exclude 'hate crime'; this is indeed a serious offence, but it is one for which dialogue can be effective in removing ignorance and stereotyping.


5. We welcome the references to out-of-court disposals (clause 94), which go some way towards meeting our concerns about over-use of the criminal justice system. The wording (which refers to dealing with behaviour without court proceedings) clearly allows for the use of mediation, although we would prefer mediation to be mentioned specifically. The word only occurs once, in the Explanatory Notes but not in the Bill itself.

6. The proposed community remedy document (clause 93) is an interesting idea, but we have two reservations. One is that it would be desirable for it to mention the establishment of a community mediation service, where this does not already exist, at least as an option even if not as a mandatory requirement. We would recommend following the example of Norway, where every local authority is required to provide a mediation service. The second is that the document is the responsibility only of the local policing body; it would be better if more emphasis were put on prevention, or better still on a healthy community as the norm, by including other agencies such as Education, Health (including mental health and addiction) and Social Services, following the example of Youth Offending Teams - and Housing could well be added to the list.

7. We are also glad that the respondent is to be 'invited' to carry out an action, which would preserve the voluntary nature of mediation. Similarly, it is stated that the views of the victim are to be sought as to whether the respondent should carry out any of the actions listed in the community remedy document (clause 94(3), clause 95(1), new clause 23ZA of Criminal Justice Act 2003). This implies a one-to-one conversation between, say, a police officer and the victim; it would be preferable, where possible, to obtain the victim's views in the course of mediation, that is, in a restorative dialogue with the offender. The activities required of the offender would then be more likely to be appropriate. Activities to which the offender has agreed are more likely to be carried out, and also to reduce the likelihood of repeating the anti-social or offending behaviour.


8. Already in 1996, when researchers at Sheffield University surveyed 34 community mediation services in 57 local authorities. they found that a housing transfer cost between 3 and 10 times as much as an average mediation, and a possession order about 15 times as much; these differentials are unlikely to have changed significantly [1] 1.

9. A more recent (2003) study of 100 mediation cases found that the average cost of handling a case was £204 when face-to-face or shuttle mediation was involved; the maximum case cost was £484. From the 50 legal cases, the average cost (excluding overheads) was £3,546, with a range from £339 to £13,692 for a very complex eviction case. Average costs of Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) and repossession actions were approximately £2,250 and £9,000 respectively at that time.

10. It has to be recognised that all the legal action cases studied involved serious and protracted anti-social behaviour, often including fighting, verbal abuse, swearing and damage to property. In many cases, there was a history of criminal convictions and/or mental health and/or alcohol-related problems. These cases in general were much more serious than those found in mediation services. Also, mediation was found to be one part of a process of intervention. Disputes are therefore not necessarily dealt with either by mediation or by other methods – a range of interventions, including mediation, are often employed in one case. Informal negotiations may precede mediation, and formal intervention may succeed it if mediation does not bring resolution. Informal intervention may or may not increase the chances of successful mediation. Informal intervention is likely to sift out cases unsuitable for mediation. Criminal or other civil legal proceedings may (but not necessarily) prevent a dispute from going to mediation. It is therefore impossible to compare like with like when looking at outcomes and costs in cases resolved through mediation or legal intervention.

11. The research team made three main recommendations:

ñ greater awareness and information about mediation and closer working with housing, police and mediation services

ñ robust monitoring and evaluation of mediation services

ñ more detailed research into the use of mediation in serious, complex cases, and into the long-term outcomes of ASBOs. [2] 2

We endorse these recommendations with regard to England and Wales, and recommend action to promote the establishment of mediation services nationwide.

12. As regards the cost, it is welcome that the purposes of grants to local policing bodies (clause 122) have been broadened, and we hope that guidance will be given to make clear that this can include contributions to the funding of mediation services. The Explanatory Notes rightly point out (para. 376) that action taken early can result in savings later in the process. It is important that a part of these savings is allocated to the earlier action that makes the later savings possible. In line with our comments above, however, we would recommend that the funding of mediation services should not come exclusively from the police, but from all the other agencies which work directly or indirectly for crime reduction and harmonious communities.

July 2013

[1] 1 ( Summarized from Dignan, J., Sorsby, A., Hibbert, J. (1996) Neighbour Disputes: Comparing the Cost Effectiveness of Mediation & Alternative Approaches , Centre for Criminological & Legal Research, University of Sheffield.  A ccessed 18.6.2013 from )

[2] 2 (Summarized from Scottish Executive Social Research (2003) The Role of Mediation in Tackling Neighbour Disputes and Anti-Social Behaviour, accessed 18.6.2013 from )

Prepared 12th July 2013