A Lack of Data

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 came into place to replace old anti-social behaviour powers (including ASBO’s), as people saw these to be ineffective. In replace of the 19 pre-existing powers, six new powers were put into place including Criminal Behaviour Orders, Civil Injunctions and Community Protection Notices. A spokesperson for the Home Office said that the new reforms gave victims “a stronger voice” and would put “victims and communities at the heart of the response”.

However, there is a strong lack of proof as to how effective new reforms and powers are, due to the Home Office not collecting statistics on most of these powers. Following on from the previous blog about the effectiveness of Community Protection Notices, we see it as a huge weakness that there is no central monitoring of CPN’s, their effectiveness or how often local councils use them.

CPNs are issued at the discretion of local councils which means one council may issue hundreds of CPN’s for issues that another council would not consider CPN matters. The Manifesto Club has been very vocal about this where CPNs are issued too freely, discovering that four councils in the South West of England had issued CPN’s to members of the public for feeding the birds. Feeding the birds is seen as a normal and positive thing and is also encouraged by animal welfare charities, so why are people being sanctioned for it, and additionally, why are they only being sanctioned for it in a specific part of the country?

Reluctance to Use CPNs?

Clearly there are several issues surrounding anti-social behaviour reforms, including Community Protection Notices, which need addressing to ensure victims are getting the best support they can. However, if reports continue to focus on the sometimes unreasonable and seemingly ridiculous reasons CPN’s are introduced, it will overall have a detrimental effect on the powers and reforms. Local authorities may become cautious to implement a CPN for fear of a backlash by the media and professionals, even if it would have been appropriate. This leads to more people able to commit anti-social behaviour and more victims suffering in silence.  There is a need for more best practice examples to help local councils see how they can successfully utilise them to help victims.

ASB Help did some research recently on the Community Trigger and learned of a case where a Community Protection Notice had been used to positive effect.  This was a lady who had suffered abuse and harassment from her neighbour for many years. Despite having difficulty trying to activate the Community Trigger (a problem experienced by many), eventually a Community Protection Notice was issued against her abusive neighbour for 12 months. Since this was issued, the neighbour has not breached the CPN, which proves that in the right situation, a Community Protection Notice is the correct order for the local agencies to issue.

However, there were many issues noted surrounding the whole process of acquiring a CPN including the difficulty of actually getting the perpetrator to answer the door to receive the CPN! The whole process took years and caused the victim and her daughter a lot of unnecessary distress. Local agencies should work together to provide effective care to support victims and implement the most appropriate orders and reforms, with injunctions and court proceedings being a last resort. The new legislation was supposed to make it quicker to take action against anti-social behaviour and avoid things dragging on for years.

Basic Data Required

To properly understand how effective the different elements of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 are working on the ground, central data needs to be collected.  With some basic data on how widely the different powers are being used, we can at least get a picture as to whether certain areas are over-using or under-using them, and where to get some best-practice examples to help practitioners use them effectively.