The government is drawing up new measures to streamline approaches to anti-social behaviour. ASB advisor Chris Grose answers your questions about how they might work
It’s looking as though anti-social behaviour injunctions are going to be replaced with crime prevention injunctions, what will this mean for social landlords?
The anti-social behaviour injunction has proved itself to be increasingly popular among landlords. In essence, though, the CPI will not be that different.
It is not yet clear whether CPIs would be enforced by magistrates’ courts or county courts. What’s the difference?
Many landlords talk to me about their frustration with how long it can take to get a case heard in the county court. Perhaps considering the use of magistrates’ courts would speed up the process because they have more capacity to hear these cases.
The magistrates have experience in hearing anti-social behaviour order applications, but the downside is their lack of civil legislation experience. The magistrates’ court typically has better facilities to support victims of ASB, though, which helps landlords to encourage witnesses to give evidence.
It is likely that the magistrates’ courts and county courts will have the same powers to issue CPIs, but the magistrates have fewer powers if injunctions are breached. They only have sentencing power for up to six months after an injunction has been issued - county courts, on the other hand, have up to two years. It is important that landlords realise they would not have the option to change from one to the other once action has been taken. In my opinion, the Home Office may wish to consider the use of both options, which could be decided at a local level, dependent on the capacity of local courts.
Who will be able to apply for CPIs?
During the consultation, it has been stated that landlords, local authorities and the police will be able to apply for CPIs. However, landlords have questions about which of these partners will make the application. The consultation seems to assume that agencies work together on a tight-knit basis and will be able to decide between them who will take the lead. In some areas, though, this kind of partnership working is not in place.
Some landlords I have heard from are concerned that if the lower threshold applies when seeking a CPI as was the case with ASBIs: causing or likely to cause nuisance or annoyance - as opposed to the higher threshold - causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress - police may misuse this power and apply for CPIs for very low level ASB.
The concern among landlords is that this may undermine the power in the courts. Landlords are very good at nipping ASB in the bud without the use of legal sanctions, so closer working with police at a local level to use CPIs collaboratively would be the best approach. I think the lower threshold is favourable, because in the social housing sector it’s often these cases that reach court.
On another note, what has happened to the coalition government’s plans to introduce locally elected police and crime commissioners?
This is going to happen and will be introduced from May 2012, but there is still some debate in the House of Lords in amending the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill which would see the PCCs elected by a panel rather than the public. Who will sit on this panel has not yet been discussed.
The core duties of the PCC will be to hold the chief constable and the police force to account. The PCC itself will be accountable to the electorate. The PCC will also have budgetary responsibility for issuing community safety grants at a local level, among other duties.
How can tenants help social landlords improve their record in tackling ASB?
Working in partnership is the most effective way to tackle ASB. Tenants and residents within communities should also be valued as key partners because of their local knowledge and desire to live in a peaceful neighbourhood. This year, the Chartered Institute of Housing ASB Action Team will be focusing on working with landlords and tenants to improve services in tackling ASB.
So far, we have seen some good examples where this is already happening, such as Community Justice Panels, Tenant Scrutiny Panels and Tenant Champions who support other victims of ASB. Tenant Scrutiny Panels have been developed to hold landlords to account, but perhaps more importantly, to help develop policies, procedures and strategic direction with the landlord.
Finally, do you have any tips for best practice in tackling ASB?
The key things to remember when dealing with a case are the fundamental principles:
- Identify the risk of harm
- Develop an action plan
- Maintain regular contact with the complainant (keep them informed)
- Consider all available options
- Maintain good record keeping (if it’s not on file - it didn’t happen)
- Efficiently close cases at the right time
- Record satisfaction - (it’s important to use this information to continuously improve)
Getting the basics right is often where some landlords go wrong. It goes without saying that landlords, along with partners, need to work on preventing ASB, but where ASB is occurring good case management and early intervention will resolve the majority of cases.
Chris Grose is ASB advisor at the Chartered Institute of Housing
Need to Know: ASB
- The Home Office completed its anti-social behaviour tools and powers review on 17 May
- It’s likely to mean a move from the anti-social behaviour injunction to the crime prevention injunction
- In December, home secretary Theresa May unveiled plans to enable members of the public to directly elect police and crime commissioners
- There is currently a debate taking place in the House of Lords about how police and crime commissioners will be elected