Rising Voices in Parliament

What was an occasional question about anti-social behaviour is becoming something of a groundswell of voices as more and more MPs express their concerns. Just in the past week or so debates and questions keep on coming and start to bring into the forefront some of the underlying failings. These are:

  • the impact of cuts to agencies affecting their response to anti-social behaviour especially the impact of less visible policing
  • the removal of funding for diversionary activities and support services, especially youth services but also mental health
  • the fact we do not actually have any way to measure how effective the tools and powers from the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act are and how widely they are being used because this information is not measured
  • a recognition that the Community Trigger is a thing, and a thing that should be publicised and utilised

The Community Trigger in Parliament

On 7th June there was a written question about how victims can have a greater input into policies and approaches to tackling anti-social behaviour.  The Community Trigger and Community Remedy were swiftly cited – but the former is not known about and the latter is rarely mentioned or used by practitioners.

On 10th June there was a specific question about the Community Trigger, its effectiveness and the requirement to publish data.  The stock answers came back: there is an ASB Strategic Board which looks at this; statutory guidance was updated; and they are looking at the Victims’ Commissioner’s report carefully.

We wrote the Community Trigger section of that report.  We campaigned to use the launch of the new statutory guidance as an opportunity to promote the Community Trigger (we were ignored and it was quietly published on 24 December 2017).  We want to see this made fit for purpose and are delighted to see MPs starting to take note that more needs to be done.

Yet again the Community Trigger was raised in an oral question to the government by Tom Brake, MP, with a call to publicise it more effectively.  Disappointingly the response was that MPs had that opportunity in their constituencies – having an opportunity and encouraging them to do it are two very different things.  National promotion would set such local promotion in motion but there seems to be no political will to do so.

No Data

I have lost count of how many questions have been asked of the Home Office about data on the new anti-social behaviour powers.  There was another, also on the 10th June, into prosecutions for anti-social behaviour in Leigh.  That is a generic request, but drill down, and the reality is that no one is keeping a definitive record of the use of the powers set out in the 2014 Act.  We have data on breaches, but without knowing how many injunctions or community protection notices were issued in the first place, it is impossible to know how high the breach rate is and therefore impossible to deduce whether the powers have been effective at stopping the anti-social behaviour.  It is infuriating that this is accepted as the norm.

It is our opinion that Community Safety Partnerships do have a good idea of number of powers being used in their area and that with a bit of effort, information could be collated, not just for collection’s sake but to actually enable the relevant people to make a fair assessment of usage and effectiveness of the powers.  Surely this is common sense.

Debates on Particular Areas

The number of debates being secured in the House of Commons or Westminster Hall on the subject of anti-social behaviour are on the rise.  After a number of years where it barely got a mention, there has been a steady run of them recently.  After one from Hull MP Diana Johnson on 7th February 2019 following on from one from Hull West MP Emma Hardy specifically about anti-social behaviour in Hull and East Riding, held on 9th October 2018, the pace has quickened:

Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour in Stockton South: 14 May 2019

Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour in Small Towns: 5 June 2019

Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour in Slade Road, Birmingham: 11 June 2019

A good reminder that anti-social behaviour can impact anywhere and everywhere.  People are genuinely concerned about anti-social behaviour in their towns, on their roads, in their communities and a current focus by the government on knife crime ignores the crucial link between anti-social behaviour and serious crime.  It is frustrating to see so little connection made – if funding were made available once more to provide activities for people to draw them away from anti-social behaviour, and to fund the positive requirements of injunctions then there are huge opportunities to reduce not only the level of anti-social behaviour, but the level of serious crime too.

Of particular note, this comment in the debate on small towns, from MP Siobhain McDonagh:

Mitcham town centre is unfortunately a hotbed of antisocial behaviour in the heart of the suburbs. Unchecked antisocial behaviour is the first step on a very slippery slope to the level of crime that we have heard described in the debate; the gulf between antisocial behaviour and serious crime is not as large as many of us allow ourselves to believe. There are small steps between noise and nuisance, drinking and drunkenness, and inconvenience and illegality.”

This too was spot on from MP Richard Burden in the debate about Slade Road:

I think all of us will recognise the picture that my hon. Friend is painting. The details may be different from area to area, but the overall picture is very recognisable. I put it to him that the problem with the overstretch is affecting the police and other services. It is not simply a matter of numbers; it is the fact that the overstretch is preventing them from intervening early, when it is most necessary. It is interrupting the neighbourhood policing that, if successful, heads off problems before they arrive. The mental health services can work effectively only if they intervene early, but the numbers are not there for them to do that.

It is encouraging to see MPs voicing their concerns and the concerns of their constituents.  It is heartening to know that many others realise the issues and raise them forcefully.  We hope real momentum for substantive change follows.