Anti-social behaviour legislation and the power of getting closure
We re-ignite some passion around anti-social behaviour (ASB) legislation.
In keeping with the Violence Against Women and Girls Campaign theme for the police I wanted to re-ignite some passion around anti-social behaviour (ASB) legislation available to further the goal of protecting vulnerable groups, which of course is one of the police’s key policing priorities.
There is a very powerful tool available to those trying to tackle anti-social, criminal and nuisance behaviour to protect victims and improve local communities. We police lawyers believe it is being used too little!
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 provides police and local authorities with a seriously effective legal tool that is not being used nearly as much as it could be. At Section 80, the legislation gives a court the power to “close” properties quickly, effectively and for a significant period. The desired outcome? To remove anti-social and criminal behaviour with immediate effect and on short (48 hours) notice.
A “fast-time” application can be made to the local magistrates’ court, and, within 48 hours, a property “closed” to criminal, abusive, nuisance occupiers, tenants, loiterers and even homeowners, where necessary. Hearsay evidence is acceptable in applications of this kind which means the identity of vulnerable victims/witnesses can be protected and any evidence they give can be provided by an officer who can be cross-examined on their evidence without the need for the witness to attend any hearing.
The legislation provides for various examples, but we see most applications in relation to domestic incidents, drug sale and use and cuckooing. These are largely in respect of local authority housing; however, the law permits a closure on “any property”, so homeowners take note – anti-social behaviour could lead to exclusion from your own home.
What to do when anti-social behaviour is occurring
If ASB is detected, suspected, or reported in a local community, a closure order MUST be a consideration for tackling the problem. They serve to bridge the gap between complaint and prosecution but at the same time provide immediate safeguards to victims and fast and effective resolutions to communities. Since 2016, Weightmans has pursued over 320 applications – trust us, they work!
The application is for a civil order that, if breached, has criminal penalties and so is an extremely effective deterrent to those posing a risk to any person within a community but more specifically vulnerable members of our society who, for one reason or another, are at risk. The orders are imposed for up to three months initially but can be extended to six months and can exclude everyone and anyone - including the lawful occupier(s).
What constitutes anti-social behaviour that will likely result in a successful application?
The threshold is that “on the balance of probabilities”, that is, “it is more likely than not”, a person has engaged in disorderly, offensive or criminal behaviour, or the premises are being used in a way likely to cause serious nuisance or there is likely to be disorder near those premises associated with the use of those premises and therefore an order is necessary to prevent the behaviour occurring, recurring or continuing.
How do you make an application?
If you have cause to close a property due to anti-social behaviour, the first thing to do is to investigate; gather the evidence, consult the local authority, and then make the application!
For an application, you will need: -
- Closure notice (with Superintendent authorisation)
- An overarching statement from the officer in the case (who should be available to attend the court hearing)
- Statements from victims/witnesses/third party reports
- Incident logs/photographs
- Consultation documents (following from local authority discussions)
- PNC records where relevant
This list is not exhaustive but gives you a good steer on what it is that we need to make a successful application.
Breaching these orders is serious
A breach of a closure notice could see a person facing up to three months in custody and/ or an unlimited fine. If you are in breach of a closure order, the penalty is imprisonment up to six months and/or an unlimited fine.
Want more information?
Weightmans can provide advice, consultation, and expertise to address concerns around anti-social behaviour and tactics that can be employed to reduce the same within local communities and protect vulnerable members of the public from violence, abuse, and exploitation.