Anti-social behaviour policy and procedure
Procedure - action we may take
Dealing with ASB can be complex. Information, support and low level interventions to tackle the causes of ASB at an early stage are as important as effective case management and timely enforcement action.
The majority of complaints can be resolved through early intervention methods and these are considered with the complainant during the initial contact risk assessment with the emphasis on stopping bad behaviour before it escalates. Legal action will usually be approved where all early interventions have failed or the ASB is serious enough to warrant such action and it is proportionate to take further action.
Where an area is experiencing significant and reoccurring ASB perpetrated by groups as opposed to individuals, a multi-agency action plan will be put in place led by our partnerships team. Where there are younger individuals identified as perpetrators of anti-social behaviour or being criminally exploited, a risk assessment shall be completed.
For those young people scored low to medium they shall be put on the next agenda for the ASB Interventions Case Conference.
For those young people scored medium to high they shall be put on the next agenda for the Vulnerable Adolescents Multi Agency Panel.
In some cases where there is little or no evidence, no action will be taken by us and the case will be closed.
If there is some evidence available to show that the complaint may be justified, or if the allegations are admitted by the perpetrator, early interventions may be considered to deter continued patterns of behaviour such as:
In some cases, information will be provided to residents in order to help them deal with the issues themselves. Information is available on our website and in other formats and will include:
- noise nuisance
- neighbour disputes
- football and ball games
These activities are particularly useful to address issues such as low self-esteem and extreme behaviour. Wherever possible, we will work with partners and commissioned organisations to provide additional support to divert individuals away from ASB, crime and disorder. There is a range of such support from empowering young people with self-esteem to drugs and alcohol support for all ages. This gives opportunities to be diverted from negative behaviours and engage in more positive activities.
For less serious issues of ASB, a community resolution may be used between the parties involved to avoid progression to legal action. The aim is to bring together victims and perpetrators of low level crime, ASB and nuisance in a meeting where trained volunteers use restorative or reparative approaches to agree on a course of action for those involved. Providing the perpetrator admits liability and both consent to coming together, a meeting is held to consider the issues relating to the incident.
This is used to identify practical ways to design out ASB from a location as a protective and preventative approach, such as lighting schemes, boundary definition, structural or planting initiatives or certain implementation of equipment that may be beneficial to reduce any harmful factors. Target hardening activity is subject to available funding.
Mediation can be used successfully in most low level disputes. Our officers can offer (subject to availability) an independent mediator on an impartial basis for neighbour disputes, family mediation and also offer mediation in an attempt to avoid court action.
We reserve the right to work with partner agencies to carry out surveillance in the community to assist in ongoing investigations. This may include applying for CCTV footage or use of private mobile CCTV professionals, where there is a need for the prevention and detection of crime in accordance with prevailing legislation in line with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
If there is enough evidence available to show that the complaint is justified, or if the allegations are admitted by the perpetrator, further proportionate informal action may be pursued, such as:
Verbal warnings/written warnings
Warnings are issued initially if ASB is admitted or the investigating officer feels ASB has or is likely to occur. The perpetrator will be told the nature of the behaviour which has resulted in the warning and the consequences of not adhering to the warning. This can be via a letter, telephone or other means of communication. We keep a record of verbal or written warnings issued so that they are available to use, even by partner agencies, as evidence in court proceedings, should the issue escalate for further action.
Acceptable behaviour contract/parenting contracts
These are voluntary written agreements between an individual, ourselves and partners such as Education and Staffordshire Police. They are useful in dealing with children and young people aged over 10 as an effective way to assist in addressing truancy and ASB. These agreements are not legally binding however they are useful in highlighting children and young people's behaviour to their parents and guardians and in communicating the consequences if they are not adhered to.
The Youth Offending Service and relevant education setting will be notified when an acceptable behaviours contract (ABCs) or parenting contract is being pursued with a child or young person.
There is no formal sanction in refusing to participate in an ABC or parenting contract, so individuals cannot be forced to do so but refusal may persuade a court that only formal action such as a civil injunction or criminal behaviour order will prevent the ASB.
Community protection notice warnings
These were introduced in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and can be used in ongoing problems or nuisances which negatively impact on the community's quality of life, for example graffiti, rubbish or noise.
These warnings are given in writing, by ourselves or the police acting on our behalf, highlighting the behaviour that needs to stop or positive action to be taken, in order to prevent a community protection notice being served. See below.
Formal or legal action
More serious cases may require formal or legal action being pursued with or without any warnings being given. In the majority of cases a warning will be given and if a perpetrator fails to address their behaviour then legal action will be considered.
In a small number of the most serious cases, where time is of the essence, we reserve the right to take legal action without prior warning to the perpetrator in order to provide a swift resolution.
Any enforcement action will be carried out in line with our enforcement policy and appropriate permissions obtained in line with our scheme of delegation.
Under the Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing act 2014 there are a number of formal or legal actions that can be taken, such as:
A civil injunction is a court order to stop or prevent individuals engaging in ASB. The injunction can offer fast and effective protection for victims and communities and set a clear standard of behaviour for perpetrators, stopping the person’s behaviour from continuing.
Injunctions can be utilised to control the actions or omissions of anyone, not just social housing tenants, over the age of 10 years.
For ASB in a non-housing related context, the test is; conduct that has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person. This will apply, for example, where the ASB has occurred in a public place, such as a town centre or local park, and where the behaviour does not affect the housing management functions of a social landlord or people in their homes.
For ASB in a housing context, the test is where the conduct is capable of causing a nuisance or annoyance to a person in relation to that person’s occupation of residential premises or the conduct is capable of causing housing related nuisance or annoyance to any person. This may be used by the police, local councils and social housing providers against perpetrators in social housing, the private rented sector and owner occupiers.
Breach of the injunction is not a criminal offence, but breach must be proved to the criminal standard, that is, beyond reasonable doubt. The penalties are:
- over 18s: civil contempt of court with unlimited fine or up to two years in prison
- under 18s: supervision order or, as a very last resort, a civil detention order of up to three months for 14-17 year olds
Criminal behaviour orders
The criminal behaviour order (CBO) is available on conviction for any criminal offence in any criminal court. The order is aimed at tackling the most serious and persistent offenders where their behaviour has brought them before a criminal court.
CBOs can be issued against a person aged over 10 years, who has been convicted of an offence to tackle the most persistent ASB where involvement includes criminal activity.
Breach of the order is a criminal offence and must be proved to a criminal standard of proof, that is, beyond reasonable doubt. The penalties are:
- for over 18s on summary conviction: up to six months imprisonment or a fine or both
- for over 18s on conviction on indictment: up to five years imprisonment or a fine or both
- for under 18s: the sentencing powers in the youth court apply
Community protection notices (CPN)
The community protection notice (CPN) is intended to deal with the conduct of an individual or body that is having a detrimental effect, of a persistent or continuing nature, on the quality of life of those living in the locality and that the conduct is considered to be unreasonable.
A CPN can be issued against any person aged 16 years or over or a body (corporate), including a business. The notice can impose requirements to stop doing specified things, or to do specified things and to take reasonable steps to achieve specified results. A CPN can only be served once a written warning has been issued, see above. They can also be used to the parent or guardian of those aged under 16 years.
Breach of a community protection notice is a criminal offence, any liability to which can be discharged by payment of a fixed penalty notice, if deemed appropriate, or upon prosecution through the Magistrates Court. On breach of a community protection notice there is also the option to undertake works in default and recover its costs.
Public spaces protection orders (PSPO)
Public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) are intended to stop individuals or groups of individuals committing ASB by imposing specific conditions that apply to everyone, regarding the use of that space. This may include multiple restrictions and requirements throughout the Borough or in specific areas for example parks or communal areas, where ASB is evident and is deemed to be detrimental to the wider community.
PSPOs are set following a public consultation process and are subject to review every three years.
PSPOs are designed to ensure the law-abiding majority can use and enjoy public spaces, and feel safe from ASB. Breach of any of the PSPO conditions can result in a fixed penalty notice being issued by any of our delegated officers, police officer or prosecution through the Magistrates Court.
Closure orders allow the police or ourselves to quickly close premises which are being used, or likely to be used, to commit nuisance or disorder.
The closure power is a fast, flexible power that can be used to protect victims and communities by quickly closing premises that are causing nuisance or disorder.
A closure notice can be issued for 24 hours if the Council or Police Officer (of at least the rank of Inspector) is satisfied on reasonable grounds:
- that the use of particular premises has resulted, or (if the notice is not issued) is likely soon to result, in nuisance to members of the public, or
- there has been, or (if the notice is not issued) is likely to be, disorder near those premises associated with the use of those premises, and that the notice is necessary to prevent the nuisance or disorder from continuing, recurring or occurring
The closure notice can be issued in the first instance for 24 hours by the Chief Executive or a person delegated by them such as the Head of Environmental Health and extended up to a maximum of 48 hours by our Chief Executive or designate thereof or by a police Superintendent.
A closure order can subsequently be applied for and issued if the court is satisfied:
- that a person has engaged, or (if the order is not made) is likely to engage, in disorderly, offensive or criminal behaviour on the premises, or
- that the use of the premises has resulted, or (if the order is not made) is likely to result, in serious nuisance to members of the public, or
- that there has been, or (if the order is not made) is likely to be, disorder near those premises associated with the use of those premises, and that the order is necessary to prevent the behaviour, nuisance or disorder from continuing, recurring or occurring
It is a criminal offence to breach the conditions imposed by a closure notice or order, with up to three months imprisonment for the former, six months for the latter and an unlimited fine for breaching both.