By Ria Stevens, solicitor in the Housing team
Housing law practitioners and housing providers are waiting with baited breath for the introduction of the new Anti-Social Behaviour Injunctions as set out in Part 1 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
The new civil injunctions which will replace current ASB injunctions, ASBOs, drinking banning orders, intervention orders and individual support orders were supposed to come into effect this month. They have now been delayed until at least early 2015.
The purpose of the new Act is to provide simpler and more effective ways of tackling anti-social behaviour within communities as injunctions can be applied for by a wide range of agencies including Local Authorities, the Chief Officer of the Police and the Environmental Agency.
A big change to the new injunctions is that for the first time a Civil Court can grant an injunction against a person aged 10 or over if two conditions are met:
1. The Court is satisfied that on the balance of probabilities the individual has engaged or threatens to engage in anti-social behaviour; and
2. It is just and convenient to grant the injunction to prevent the individual from engaging in anti social behaviour.
Anti social behaviour is defined under the new Act as behaviour that has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person; is capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to a person in relation to that person’s occupation of residential premises; or is capable of causing housing-related nuisance or annoyance to any person.
Housing providers can only apply for an injunction where the anti social behaviour directly or indirectly relates to or affects its housing management functions.
The new injunctions must also include a provision for a 'positive requirement'. This means that certain conditions will be attached to the Injunction in an attempt to reduce any re-offending behaviour, for example a requirement that the offender attends a drug rehabilitation centre. This is in addition to the existing prohibitions that can be attached to an injunction.
Under the new Act victims also have power to force housing providers to carry out a review in cases of persistent anti social behaviour. Case reviews can be forced in the following situations. Firstly, where there are three separate incidents relating to the same problem reported in the past six months to the Local Authority, Police or Landlord. Secondly, where there is one incident or crime motivated by hate (due to race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity) reported in the last six months and no action has been taken and finally where at least five people have made reports about the same problem in the past six months to the Local Authority, Council and Landlord and no action has been taken.
In theory it should be a lot quicker for housing providers to apply for an injunction against a whole host of perpetrators as the Court is in certain circumstances able to apply for a 'without notice' injunction and there is no immediate requirement in such instances that the housing provider shows that the perpetrator has committed an act of anti social behaviour.
Concerns have been expressed about the effectiveness of the new injunctions since they are purely a civil order and do not give the individual a criminal record. Gloria De Piero, Shadow Home Office Minister, has described the new injunctions as a 'tool without teeth'. Ms De Piero favours the existing ASBOs as a more effective way of preventing perpetrators from re-offending. The Court will, however, retain its ability to attach a Power of Arrest to an injunction meaning that a perpetrator can be arrested and subsequently sentenced for any proven breaches of the Injunction.
Under current laws anyone found to have breached an injunction can be sent to prison for up to two years. Legal aid is available for those who pass the financial means assessment. If you receive any papers from your landlord which refers to an ASB injunction you should seek legal advice immediately.