Mixed Reaction to the Government’s new plans to tackle Anti-social behaviour

The government announced this week that it intends to overhaul powers to tackle anti-social behaviour and replace them with measures which would make it easier for landlords to evict tenants who cause nuisance.

The Home Office published a white paper, entitled Putting victims first – more effective responses to antisocial behaviour. The paper proposes cutting the number of measures available to tackle such behaviour from 19 to 6. These changes also introduce a right for communities to demand action to be taken by the authorities. The Home Office aims to streamline the measures used to address anti-social behavior thereby providing the Police, Local authorities and Housing Associations with greater flexibility to tackle local issues.

The new proposals include replacing the Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) with ‘Criminal Behaviour Orders’ (Crimbo’s) and a new ‘Crime Prevention Injunction’ (CPI). A CPI will be subject to the civil standard of proof, which is on the balance of probabilities.  The White paper proposes making it easier for social and private landlords to evict tenants if a CPI is breached by a tenant, one of their family or a visitor in the 12 months after the CPI is made, without a further trial.

The proposals also include introducing a “community trigger”, which would give communities the right to require authorities to take action to tackle anti-social behaviour where the nuisance has been on-going for a period of time. The Home office is to publish further guidance. The trigger will be trialed in West Lindsey in Lincolnshire, Manchester, Brighton and Hove from 1 June 2012, according to the Home Office.

Gavin Smart, Director of Policy and Practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said “Today’s proposals offer landlords an alternative route to possession, which will reduce the burden on victims to give evidence in different court cases and avoid waiting months, sometimes years, until the perpetrator is evicted.”

Home Secretary Theresa May also announced new plans whereby the Police will be forced to act if they receive three complaints from one individual or five complaints from different homeowners about anti-social behaviour. However such changes have received heavy criticism inlcuding from Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary;

 “It should not take three separate complaints, or five different households complaining, before getting a response. All complaints should be dealt with, and quickly: no one wants to wait for the government’s slow trigger.”

There is no definition as yet of what “Police action” will consist of. Will it mean investigation, and if so, to what level? There is no doubt that these proposals requiring Police Officers to “act” after receiving three complaints, without being given any discretion, will be scrutinised by those who have an interest in tackling anti-social behaviour and in keeping our communities safer.

The white paper is available here:

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crime/anti-social-behaviour/white-paper/

Aisha Akhtar

Solicitor

Prince Evans Solicitors LLP

 

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