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Tackling anti-social behaviour – the right tools for the job? Matthew Warburton - 24/05/2012

ASB White Paper 211x300The Home Office White Paper published this week proposes a radical overhaul of the powers available to tackle anti-social behaviour, cutting the toolkit from a current 19 tools to just 6, including replacing ASBOs with a new Crime Prevention Injunction.

Current arrangements have grown up piecemeal since the first introduction of ASBOs in the 1990s and they are complex, in parts bureaucratic and not entirely fit for purpose.

Simplification is welcome, provided the new toolkit enables police, councils and other social landlords to deal speedily and effectively with the full range of anti-social behaviours, and do so reasonably cheaply in these straitened times.

The White Paper emphasises the variety of nuisances, crimes and disorder falling under the label of anti-social behaviour, and rightly concludes that it is a mistake to think they are susceptible to a one-size-fits-all response designed from the centre.

The key to success is to empower local agencies to respond flexibly and effectively. Providing this flexibility while simplifying the available toolkit is a challenge.

Key changes include a new civil injunction that agencies can use quickly to protect victims and communities subject to a less demanding burden of proof than current ASB injunctions, and a new ground for possession that would give a faster route to eviction for the most serious criminal or anti-social behaviour.

Some have expressed concern that current powers  should not be scrapped until it is clear that the new ones provide effective replacements. This is a fair point.

However eloquent the White Paper is in setting out the Government's intentions, much still depends on the detailed drafting of the necessary legislation and, equally importantly, how it is interpreted in practice by the courts.

We can welcome this declaration of intent from the Government, but there is still some way to go before practitioners can be confident that the tools for the job are to hand.


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