System Failures are Letting Too Many ASB Perpetrators off the Hook

NEWS RELEASE: SYSTEM FAILURES ARE LETTING TOO MANY ASB PERPETRATORS OFF THE HOOK

Current anti-social behaviour policies continue to fail victims, says support charity ASB Help

18 months on from the introduction of a power designed to support victims of persistent anti-social behaviour in England and Wales and those people are still being fundamentally failed by the system, says victim advice charity ASB Help.

A YouGov Poll commissioned by the charity, which provides support for and signposts victims of anti-social behaviour in England and Wales to advice and guidance, showed that whilst 32% of people have experienced anti-social behaviour, only 3% have heard of the ‘Community Trigger’ and fewer than 1% have used it.

The Community Trigger was introduced as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act in October 2014 to give victims the power to request a multi-agency review of their ASB complaint if they feel a satisfactory outcome hasn’t been achieved. But, says ASB Help chief executive Jenny Herrera, despite a legal requirement for local authorities and other agencies to highlight the availability of the Community Trigger and report on its use, very few people even know it exists:

“We have spent two years gathering anecdotal information of people’s experiences of anti-social behaviour across England and Wales, with the ultimate goal of giving victims a voice both in their local area and at a national level to support a lobby for change,” Jenny says.

“We have also spent the last eighteen months trying to establish the effectiveness of the Community Trigger in supporting victims. At almost every turn we have come up against a brick wall. Police forces report anti-social behaviour incidents but they are not accredited National Statistics and each force may record them in a different way. Local authorities and other bodies to whom ASB is reported have no legal requirement at all to report instances of ASB. Although it is the legal responsibility of local authorities and other agencies to report how often the Community Trigger has been activated in their area, the reality we have experienced is that there is no consistency in recording and reporting from region to region. This makes it impossible to either get a complete picture of anti-social behaviour in England and Wales or to know whether the trigger has been used, let alone how effective it has been. “As a result, many victims of ASB still find themselves at the mercy of a postcode lottery with nowhere to turn to resolve the very real – and in some cases life threatening – issues that are making their lives a misery. It also means that many ASB perpetrators are being too easily let off the hook.”

Jenny says that she hears the stories of hundreds of people whose experiences of anti-social behaviour are being ignored or unsatisfactorily dealt with by the authorities: “Almost ten years since Fiona Pilkington’s tragic suicide was seen as a turning point in the way anti-social behaviour is dealt with by the authorities, I don’t feel that we are very much further forward and I believe a case like this one could very easily happen again.”

ASB Help is calling on the government to put its weight behind the charity’s campaign to extract Community Trigger data from local authorities and other public bodies. Jenny says this will at the least begin to shed some light on the extent of the anti-social behaviour problem in England and Wales, as well as how effectively it is currently being dealt with. “We are working with the Home Office and anti-social behaviour agency partners to step up our campaign and work towards our joint goals of helping ASB victims to be heard and campaigning for effective change that will transform the lives of thousands of people across England and Wales.”

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People who have experienced anti-social behaviour and would like advice, guidance or support can visit www.asbhelp.co.uk.

Notes to editors: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,018 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23rd and 24th February 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). The survey defined “anti-social behaviour” as when a person behaves in a way which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more people who are not from their household.

Why the community trigger is failing: the ASB Help view

The Community Trigger is the term generally applied to the Response to Complaints section of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act in October 2014. If someone has made a complaint about anti-social behaviour in a particular local government area, the relevant bodies in that area must carry out an ASB case review if that person, or anyone else, requests one (i.e. activates the Community Trigger) and the relevant bodies decide that the threshold for a review is met. The review will focus either on the ongoing anti-social behaviour about which the original complaint was made or on the adequacy of the response to that behaviour. Either way, victims should see a full, independent review of their complaint. In our view, the key issues are that:

  • There is no definitive guidance as to what the threshold for review should be. Each local authority area sets its own threshold. The most common threshold is likely to be if someone has complained three times in a six-month period and feels nothing has been done, but this is only a minimum, others may interpret it differently, which contributes to the existing postcode lottery.
  • Each local authority must specify the point of contact for activating the Community Trigger and ensure that applications made to that point of contact are passed on to all the relevant bodies in the local government area. The statutory guidelines advise that this information is made clear and that there be a number of ways of activating the trigger. In our experience, the availability and prominence of information on local authority and other relevant websites and literature are at best inconsistent and, at worst, well hidden.
  • Under the 2014 Act, bodies who carry out an ASB case review must inform the applicant of the outcome of the review and any recommendations made. We see little evidence of this happening in practice. These bodies are also obliged to publish every year how many triggers have been activated and how many case reviews have been carried out. Accessing this information is extremely difficult and some Community Safety Partnerships have treated it as a Freedom of Information request rather than a statutory requirement! Those that do publish it (we have only found 19% of Councils have done this) use a wide variety of time periods and none, making comparison of data almost impossible.