Joint Committee On Human Rights Thirteenth Report

Anti-social Behaviour Bill

1. The Anti-Social Behaviour Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 27 March 2003. The Home Secretary has made a statement of compatibility with Convention rights under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998. Explanatory Notes to the Bill have been published (Bill 83-EN). They deal with the Government's view as to the effect of the Bill on Convention rights at paras. 175-182. These paragraphs make it clear that the Government accepts that the Bill engages a large number of Convention rights, although the Government will argue that in every case the interference with the right is justified in terms of the Convention itself. The Notes do not examine the impact on rights under other human rights instruments. Although a White Paper[1] was published on 15 March, it was apparently intended to be a statement of intent rather than a call to consult: no consultation period was provided, and the Bill was introduced to Parliament less than two weeks later.

2. The Bill is divided into eight Parts. Part 6 (relating to firearms) would apply in England and Wales and Scotland. The remainder of the Bill would apply to England and Wales only.

—  Part 1 of the Bill would confer powers on the police and magistrates' courts to close 'crack houses' allegedly used for dealing in Class A drugs.

—  Part 2 would allow trouble-making public sector tenants to be deprived of their security of tenure.

—  Part 3 would provide a statutory framework for 'parenting contracts' between parents and schools, and between parents and youth offending teams, in certain circumstances. These could include provisions requiring parents to attend courses on aspects of parenting.

—  Part 4 would extend the powers of the police and others to disperse or remove groups of two or more people who behave in an anti-social way, and to remove young people who are found in certain localities between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

—  Part 5 would extend the availability of anti-social behaviour orders, child curfew orders, and fixed penalty notices for disorderly behaviour. It would also allow a court to order a child who is convicted of certain offences to reside for up to a year with a local authority foster parent.

—  Part 6 would impose additional limitations on the ownership and possession of firearms, including air weapons.

—  Part 7 would confer additional powers to deal with environmental problems of noise, fly-posting and graffiti.

—  Part 8 contains the usual provision for commencement arrangements and so on.

3. After our initial examination of the Bill, our Chair wrote to the Home Secretary asking questions about the human rights implications of a number of provisions in Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 of the Bill.[2] The letter also asked about representations received by the Home Office about the human rights implications of the Bill. The Home Secretary replied by letter, to which the answers were appended in two Annexes.[3] Annex A set out the answers to our specific questions, and Annex B listed the human rights representations received in respect of the Bill, together with the Government's responses to them. We are grateful to the Home Secretary and his officials for the efficient way in which they dealt with our queries, while piloting a complex and controversial measure through the House of Commons.

4. In addition, we have received helpful submissions from a number of outside bodies, particularly those concerned with the welfare and rights of children. We now examine each of the human rights issues in the light of the information and views submitted to us.

1   Cm 5778 Respect and Responsibility-taking a stand against anti-social behaviour (March 2003) Back

2   See Written Evidence, p 23 Back

3   See Written Evidence, p 27 Back

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