So here we are in October and change is afoot. Later this month we will see the (almost) full enforcement of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 with its new streamlined tools, designed to put victims first (we understand that the Civil Injunction has been delayed due to the need to make changes first to the legal aid system). I wrote in Westminster Briefings last December when the Bill was passing through Parliament, that although the Bill was designed to put the victim first, they already seemed to be on the sidelines with no big lobbying groups to speak out for them.
Thankfully many MPs and members of the Lords shared real-life stories from their constituencies of the misery that ASB can inflict. But now the Bill is law, and agencies are trying to get a handle on how to use the new tools, will those individual voices still be heard? We come to this month with anticipation and hope that things will get better for victims of ASB, particularly those who are most vulnerable and have been suffering persistent anti-social behaviour over a number of years.
There are a couple of new tools very much focused on hearing the victim – the Community Remedy (allowing the victim to participate in choosing what action(s) the perpetrator should undertake to made amends for their behaviour) and the Community Trigger (allowing victims to require the agencies in their area to undertake a case review where they have complained at least 3 times in 6 months and not seen any action taken to prevent the ASB).
We are optimistic about the Community Trigger in particular but will be watching with great interest as to how it is utilised in practice. How well will it be publicised so that victims actually get to hear about it, especially those victims scared to leave their homes because of the anti-social behaviour they are experiencing? Will they be given a wide selection of options for how to activate the Trigger rather than just a switchboard number or formal address to write to (intimidating for many victims who may rarely write letters never mind to explain the complexities of ASB suffered)?
Very few Local Authorities have chosen to launch their Community Trigger early – we are compiling a Directory of Community Triggers so I hope that by the end of this month it is rather more populated than the current situation. With the new tools, designed to result in faster results, will they be as fast and effective as promised? How widely will they be used? Will agencies take the plunge and start trying them out immediately? Ultimately … will victims get the respite they need? We want to be a voice for victims of anti-social behaviour and will watch with great interest how the new legislation unfolds, hopeful of evidence that the situation improves substantially for victims.