An injunction can be granted against a person aged 10 or over if two conditions are met:
(i) the court is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the person has engaged or threatens to engage in anti-social behaviour; and
(ii) the court considers it just and convenient to grant the injunction to prevent the person engaging in anti-social behaviour.
An injunction can be applied for by the police, a local authority, a housing provider, the British Transport Police Force, Transport for London, the Environment Agency or the NHS Business Services Authority. The fact that it can be applied for by a range of agencies should improve the current ASB Injunction, ensuring it can be used in a wider range of circumstances such as anti-social behaviour against hospital staff, shop staff, and nightmare neighbours in the private rented sector.
An injunction is granted for a specific period of time, will name the person responsible for supervising compliance with the injunction and can include a power of arrest if breached. The injunction will require the person who is committing anti-social behaviour either to do a certain thing or prohibit them from doing a certain thing with the aim of stopping the anti-social behaviour and also preventing the individual involved from getting into crime. This is a purely civil order, and does not give the individual a criminal record.
Someone is renting a property from a private landlord. He is shouting out abuse to his neighbours (who own their house) and threatening them almost daily. Local agencies can apply to the civil courts to get an injunction against this individual. The Home Office states this could be done in a matter of hours with peace restored to the neighbours though in practice this is very optimistic and dependent on resources, especially in the courts.
The inclusion of positive requirements is new in comparison to the old Injunction to prevent nuisance and annoyance, employed by landlords. To include a positive requirement within the terms of an injunction, eg. attendance on a drugs rehabilitation course, the agency asking for it must:
in practice, there is a concern that it will be difficult to find people who will take on this management as it means they have a duty to promote compliance with the order and a duty to tell the agency that applied for the injunction if it has been breached.
The government proposed introducing the Injunction because it is something that agencies can secure quickly (according to Home Office information, in a matter of days or even hours) to stop an individual’s anti-social behaviour and protect victims. As such it would be much faster to use than the previous, infamous ASBO and could be used at an earlier stage and secured using the civil burden of proof (on the balance of probabilities rather than beyond reasonable doubt).
This all sounds promising. What remains to be seen is whether obtaining these injunctions will be as quick and easy as suggested and whether breach of these injunctions will be monitored and further action taken. Since early intervention brings greater success in stopping anti-social behaviour, it would seem likely that for individuals committing anti-social behaviour for the first or second time, this crime prevention injunction might give them the shock they need to stop doing it.
There is also a potential risk with so many agencies able to apply for an Injunction of duplication with two or more different agencies applying for an Injunction against the same individual. Where more than one agency is involved, there may also be delay and confusion as to which agency should take the lead. Effective partnership working and communication will be key.
The injunction is essentially replacing the infamous ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order). One of the reasons the ASBO is infamous is because so many were breached, and also because it gave a lot of the holders of such orders ‘street cred’ amongst their peers.
Gloria de Piero, shadow Home Office Minister, expressed her concerns in The Independent with respect to the Injunction being a ‘tool without teeth’ since a breach won’t result in a criminal record because it won’t be a crime. She went on to say that the police would have to pay to pursue a breach under contempt of court, a particular challenge given their current financial constraints. She supports the ‘much maligned Asbos’ saying many who received one never offended again.
An Injunction can only include a power of arrest if breached where the anti-social behaviour includes use or threatened use of violence or there is a significant risk of harm to others. We suggest that this lacks any real deterrent for offenders who are given these injunctions for incidents of ASB that may be non-violent/non-threatening but are nevertheless causing misery to individuals and communities.