The government will today publish plans to ensure victims of anti-social behaviour should have crimes they report acted on immediately.
Publishing the anti-social behaviour (ASB) white paper: putting victims first, more effective responses to anti-social behaviour, the home secretary is clear that some ASB is crime and should be treated as such. Cumbersome legislation will be trimmed to give police and other local agencies relevant, lasting and efficient powers to crack down on problems.
HMIC has reported that 68 per cent of people reporting ASB to police have done so more than once, usually regarding the same problem. It was also found that some people don’t bother to report ASB as they have little faith in anything being done.
The new plans will directly address this continuing problem. And those involved in making life a misery for others will not get away with it. Police and local agencies will be given a set of six new fast and flexible powers to make the message clear: anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated.
For the first time, victims who feel their problems are not being taken seriously enough by police and relevant local agencies, will have the right to force action through a newly-introduced community trigger. We will work with three leading areas to pilot this: Manchester, Brighton and Hove and West Lindsey from 1 June.
For example, in the Manchester pilot the community trigger will enable a victim to:
Force the police and other local agencies to take action where repeated complaints have been ignored. Victims will be able to write, phone or go online to activate the Trigger and are guaranteed a response within 24 hours.
The Trigger will ensure all organisations work together to develop a plan to tackle the problem and support the victim.
If agencies do not respond properly to the Trigger, members of the public can ‘appeal’ to the directly-elected police and crime commissioner (before their election in November, this role in Manchester will be taken by the deputy chief executive of Manchester city council).
The three pilots (with others due to join later in the year) will be evaluated to inform the government’s future legislative plans and ensure the community trigger offers victims the most practical, effective means of ensuring action is taken.
Home secretary Theresa May said:
‘Everyone has the right to feel safe in their own homes and neighbourhoods. Yet thousands of people around the country are still having their everyday lives blighted by anti-social behaviour. Many don’t even report it, convinced it won’t be taken seriously. And sadly too often they have been right.
‘It’s time to put victims first. That’s what this government will do. Our new plans aim to give victims the chance to have their problem dealt with immediately. We will slash the confusing and cumbersome legislation that leaves victims without a voice and police and other agencies without the ability to really tackle the problem.
‘Police and local agencies will now have clarity and the powers to come down hard on those who inflict anti-social behaviour on others.’
The government will publish a draft bill for pre-legislative scrutiny to ensure Parliament, victims and frontline practitioners are involved in shaping the new legislation which will replace ten years of confusing and complex legislation. We want to we deliver effective laws that last for a generation.
The white paper builds on the reforms already underway to fundamentally change the way crime and disorder is dealt with and the relationship between the public, the police and local and central government. The introduction of directly elected police and crime commissioners (PCCs) later this year and the publication of local crime data online, including ASB, is making policing more accountable and responsive to local concerns.
The roll-out of the non-emergency 101 number gives residents a single point of contact to report crime and ASB, cutting through the confusion. At the same time we are sweeping away central targets, bureaucracy and red tape to help police forces focus resources on the frontline and on their one core mission: to cut crime. Stopping top-down interference in local policing means we free the centre to more effectively target serious and organised crime, which also blights communities, through the establishment of the national crime agency.
At the same time, we are targeting key drivers of crime and ASB through strategies on drugs and alcohol, working to turnaround the lives of the 120,000 most troubled families and supporting the 29 areas most affected by gang and youth crime. It all amounts to a comprehensive strategy to drive down crime and ASB and drive up efficiency and accountability.
Notes to editors
1. The white paper can be found on the home office website at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crime/anti-social-behaviour/white-paper
2. HMIC report is available at: http://www.hmic.gov.uk/programmes/anti-social-behaviour/
3. Existing 19 tools and powers and the six that will replace them:
- Criminal behaviour order - can be used in more circumstances than the ASBO as it will have a simpler test (meaning agencies won’t have to re-prove past anti-social behaviour). It can be used to target the most seriously anti-social individuals and will aim not only to stop existing ASB but also change behaviour as it will include positive requirements which can be used to prevent re-offending, another departure from the ASBO. Breach would be a criminal offence with a maximum sentence of up to 5 years in prison.
- Crime prevention injunction - will replace five existing powers. As a purely civil injunction it will be faster to use than the ASBO, can be used at an earlier stage and secured using the civil standard of proof. Breach would be contempt of court and carry serious penalties including custody. Police officers and other professionals will also be able to give evidence on behalf of the community which protects vulnerable witnesses. It will improve the ASB Injunction by broadening the range of agencies who can apply for an injunction (the police and councils, but also, for example, NHS Protect who deal with ASB against hospital staff) and could be used in a wider range of circumstances (for example against nightmare neighbours in the private rented sector).
- Community protection notice - issued to an individual to deal with a wide range of problems affecting quality of life in a community e.g. a front garden being used as a dumping ground.
- Community protection order (public space) - a flexible local authority power (in consultation with the police and police and crime commissioner) to put in place local restrictions to address a range of anti-social behaviour and prevent future problems. It marks a clear difference between the old system of a separate power for every situation, to a new system which emphasizes local discretion and flexibility.
- Community protection order (closure) - would simplify existing powers to close particular premises that are a constant focus for severe anti-social behaviour, making the lives of those nearby a misery.
- Directions power - will consolidate existing police dispersal powers into a single, less bureaucratic power, removing the need for the police to designate a specific ‘dispersal zone’ in advance. This will mean the police can deal quickly with emerging trouble before it gets out of control or the behaviour starts to affect victims and communities seriously.