In this blogpost, we look at the recently published Policy Paper outlining the upcoming changes from the Criminal Justice Bill.
What are the changes?
The bill enhances the powers available to the police and other local agencies under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (the 2014 Act) to tackle ASB. This includes:
a) Extending the maximum exclusion period for dispersal directions from 48 hours to 72 hours, with a mandatory review at 48 hours. Increasing the maximum exclusion period to 72 hours will allow the relevant authorities to implement dispersal directions which cover weekends and bank holidays.
b) Extending the power to implement a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) to the police. By enabling the police to implement a PSPO, more agencies will be able use this power more quickly and efficiently, providing faster respite to the affected community.
c) Lowering the minimum age of a Community Protection Notice (CPN) from 16 to 10. By lowering the age to 10, in line with the age of criminal responsibility, it will help the police and other agencies to intervene early to stop ASB by young children escalating. The relevant agencies will need to engage youth services prior to issuing a CPN to an offender aged under 16.
d) Increasing the upper limit for a Fixed Penalty Notice for breaches of a PSPO and a CPN from £100 to £500. By increasing the upper limit to £500, this will help deter more people from breaching PSPOs and CPNs. As increased fines carry more weight, we expect this will have a greater impact on the reduction of ASB.
e) Extending the timeframe that relevant agencies can apply to a magistrates’ court for a Closure Order from 48 hours after service of a Closure Notice to 72 hours. This will give more time to the relevant agencies to progress the application for a Closure Order, protecting the local community in the meantime, and to implement other solutions to address the ASB in question.
f) Extending the power to issue a Closure Notice to registered social housing providers. Currently only local authorities and police can issue Closure Notices. This is despite registered social housing providers often being the first agency to be aware of the ASB in question but being powerless to tackle it. By extending this power to registered social housing providers, this will give more relevant agencies the power to use a Closure Notice and apply to a court for a Closure Order when dealing with ASB in a social housing context.
g) Extending the power of arrest to all breaches of a Civil Injunction By expanding the power of arrest to all breaches of a Civil Injunction, rather than just those where there is a threat of violence, this will give the power more “teeth” and will deter offenders from breaching their injunction, providing swifter justice for victims.
h) Extending the powers available under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS) to allow CSAS officers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices for breach of CPNs and PSPOs. CSAS officers currently do not have any powers to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice to enforce a breach of a CPN or a PSPO. Extending the power to enforce breaches of CPNs and PSPOs to more relevant agencies will help strengthen enforcement capability and broaden the range of agencies that can tackle ASB, freeing up resources for other relevant agencies.
Community Safety Partnerships
The bill will:
i) Confer a power on PCCs to make recommendations on the activity of CSPs and place a duty for CSPs to take those recommendations into account. A CSP must consider any recommendations but is not under a duty to implement them. However, if they do not implement the recommendations, the CSP must share their reasons for doing so with the PCC.
j) Create a duty for PCCs to promote awareness of the ASB Case Review in their police force area, monitor its use and provide a route for victims to query decisions via their office. Setting out the PCCs’ role in the ASB Case Review will enable more consistency in implementation across all police force areas, so victims can expect a more consistent service.
k) Create a duty for relevant bodies to report to a LPB the following data:
- Number of ASB incidents reported;
- Types of ASB incidents reported;
- Where ASB incidents occur, including hotspots; and
- Number of ASB Case Reviews and their outcomes.
Alongside the bill we will bring forward secondary legislation that will Introduce new statutory requirements for the CSP to:
a. Set out in their annual strategic assessment how it has had due regard to the police and crime objectives set out in the PCC’s police and crime plan.
b. To send a copy of the strategic assessment to the PCC. This will help to improve PCC and CSP relationships and align crime reduction strategies at a police force and local level.
c. Publish the executive summary of their strategic assessment. This will improve CSPs’ visibility and accountability to the public and their local communities.
Tackling ASB is a priority and in March 2023, the Government launched a plan to crack down on ASB, aimed at restoring people’s confidence that these crimes will be quickly and visibly punished.
As part of engagement for the plan, stakeholders indicated that while the powers and tools in the 2014 Act are useful, they could be expanded to ensure greater effectiveness at tackling ASB. While the police, local authorities and other agencies already have a range of powers to tackle ASB, they do not use them consistently, or, in some cases, frequently enough. Engagement with partners identified common barriers to using the powers and ways they can be made more effective.
The Community Safety Partnership (CSP) review and Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) powers consultation, which ran from March to May 2023, tested views on strengthening the powers used to tackle ASB in the 2014 Act.
Most responses were supportive of the measures included in this legislation. It was felt that the expanded powers would help to tackle ASB more effectively, allowing the relevant agencies to better resource and implement longer term strategies. However, there was some concern over granting the power to issue dispersal orders to local authorities. The Home Office will be updating statutory guidance in this area to ensure that local authorities exercise this power appropriately.
The CSP review and ASB powers consultation also tested views on proposals to strengthen the accountability of CSPs. CSPs were introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998[footnote 1] and bring together local partners to formulate and deliver strategies to reduce crime, disorder and ASB in their communities. CSPs are made up of representatives from the Police, Fire and Rescue Authority, Local Authorities, Health Partners and Probation Services.
Part Two of the PCC Review, conducted by the Home Office in 2021, found that whilst the importance of local partnerships such as CSPs was widely acknowledged, they were not being used as effectively as they could be, resulting in a recommendation that the Home Office undertake a full review of CSPs across England and Wales: the CSP Review.[footnote 2] The responses to the CSP Review and ASB Powers consultation indicated overall support for the proposals being taken forward in this legislation.
The police recorded incidents show a fall in ASB since 2013/14 from around 2.1m to 1.0m incidents (year ending June 2023 down 51%). Police recorded incidents of ASB in the year ending June 2023 show a decrease of 11% from the year ending June 2022.
In the year ending June 2023, the Crime Survey of England and Wales showed that 34% of respondents personally witnessed or experienced anti-social behaviour in their local area, a statistically significant drop when compared to the year ending March 2020. Groups hanging around on the streets and people using or dealing drugs were the most common types of anti-social behaviour reported.
There are over 300 CSPs in England and Wales, operating as either district, county, unitary, or borough partnerships. CSPs provide localised strategies tailored to the needs of their communities.
Frequently asked questions
Q: The 2014 Act was designed for local areas to determine how best to deploy ASB powers. Do these changes not take away that responsibility?
A: No. The expansion of the powers in the 2014 Act is designed to promote greater use and consistency. It is vital that the relevant agencies have everything they need at their disposal to ensure that the ASB does not escalate further.
But it is still for local areas to decide how best to deploy these powers depending on the specific circumstances. They are best placed to understand what is driving the behaviour in question, the impact that it is having, and to determine the most appropriate response. The changes simply strengthen the powers to achieve greater and more consistent use.
Q: ASB crackdown has been done many times before by successive governments; what’s so different this time?
A: Anti-social behaviour is an issue that matters a great deal to people and affects communities up and down the country. The Government launched the ASB Action Plan in March 2023 to crack down on anti-social behaviour and restore people’s confidence that there will be real consequences for those who inflict this kind of misery on others. We are determined to restore the right of people to feel safe in their homes and proud of their local area.
Q: What are the key ASB powers in the 2014 Act?
Civil Injunctions are issued by the courts upon application from specific organisations such as the police and local authorities. Civil Injunctions are intended to target behaviour such as public drunkenness, bullying, being an abusive neighbour and vandalism. An injunction will include relevant prohibitions to get individuals to stop behaving anti-socially. It can also include positive requirements to get the individual to deal with the underlying cause of their behaviour (for example, attending alcohol awareness classes). Though they are a civil rather than a criminal order (in that they are not linked to a criminal offence), breaching an injunction is treated as a contempt of court (punishable with a prison sentence of up to two years, a fine, or both) and the court can include a power of arrest for such breaches.
Criminal Behaviour Orders
Criminal Behaviour Orders (“CBO”) are issued after an individual has been convicted for any criminal offence. An order will include prohibitions to stop the anti-social behaviour but can also include positive requirements to get the offender to address the underlying causes of their behaviour. Breach of a CBO is a criminal offence, subject to a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both.
Dispersal powers can be used upon authorisation by a police officer of the rank of inspector or above to require individuals to disperse from a location. These powers can only be authorised when members of the public in the location are being harassed, alarmed or distressed, or when there is localised crime and disorder. An authorisation lasts for 48 hours. Failure to comply with a dispersal direction is criminal offence, subject to a maximum penalty of three months’ imprisonment (for persons over 18 years), a level 4 fine, or both.
Community Protection Notices
Community Protection Notices (“CPN”) are intended to stop a person aged 16 or over, business or organisation committing anti-social behaviour which spoils a community’s quality of life. They can deal with a range of behaviours; for instance, it can deal with noise nuisance and litter on private land. A CPN can include requirements to ensure that problems are rectified and that steps are taken to prevent the anti-social behaviour occurring again. CPNs can be issued by local authority officers, the police or social landlords. Breach of a notice is a criminal offence, punishable by a level 4 fine in the case of an individual or an unlimited fine in the case of a business. As an alternative to a prosecution, breach may be dealt with by means of a £100 fixed penalty notice. A court can also then impose a remedial order to require an individual to carry out work specified in the order.
Public Spaces Protection Orders
Public Spaces Protection Orders (“PSPO”) are orders which bans taking part in certain acts in designated areas that would not otherwise be a criminal offence, for example, the consumption of alcohol. They are granted by the courts on application from local authorities. Breach of a PSPO is a criminal offence, punishable by a level 3 fine (£1,000). As an alternative to a prosecution, breach may be dealt with by means of a £100 fixed penalty notice.
Closure Notices and Orders
Closure Notices and Orders allow the police or a local authority to close premises quickly which are being used, or likely to be used, to commit nuisance or disorder. A closure notice can be issued by a police officer or a local authority and can bar any person who is not a resident accessing the premises for a maximum of 48 hours. A court issued closure order can close premises for up to six months and can restrict all access. Breach of a closure notice or closure order is a criminal offence, punishable by a maximum penalty of three months’ imprisonment or six months’ imprisonment respectively, a fine, or both.
Q: What will legislating on Community Safety Partnerships achieve?
A: These measures will improve the relationship between CSPs and PCCs. This will enable better strategic oversight and alignment of local crime prevention priorities, and help CSPs to better serve the needs of their local communities in tackling crime and disorder.
Q: The measures don’t go far enough. You promised a full review and this only targets accountability.
A: We have been clear throughout this process that this is phase one of the wider CSP review. These measures were developed in response to a public consultation, and reflect the feedback of the public and key partners in the community safety sector. They will be built on under Phase Two of the CSP Review, which will commence shortly. Phase Two consider the broader role and responsibilities of CSPs in the wider local partnership landscape.
Update on Part Two of the Police and Crime Commissioner Review: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2022-03-07/HCWS664. The Community Safety Partnership (CSP) review and Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) powers consultation constitutes Phase One of the CSP Review. ↩