We are seeing an increasing number of local authorities and social landlords applying for Anti-Social Behaviour Injunctions against individuals accused of anti-social behaviour. In some circumstances if there has been an allegation of a serious use or threatened use of violence, these Injunctions can be granted on an emergency basis without the individual who has been accused even knowing that the Court is considering their case. In such circumstances, the applicant will often try to take advantage of the fact the Defendant and his solicitor are unaware of the hearing and will do their best to persuade the Court to impose very wide restrictions on the individual and even attach a Power of Arrest so the person can be arrested and brought back to Court within 24 hours if allegations are made that they have in some way breached the Injunction.
Typically Anti-Social Behaviour Injunctions will prevent a person from causing a nuisance to others or threatening and using violence. However, they will often go further, preventing the person from contacting other individuals in any way or even excluding the person from a specific area. Where these orders are made without the person being at Court to give their side of the story and a Power of Arrest is included, there can be a significant restriction on the person's liberty.
When it is alleged the Defendant has acted in breach of the Anti-Social Behaviour Injunction, the Police will arrest them and they will be brought before the District Judge within 24 hours. Often this means that the person is detained in custody overnight before the hearing the next day. If the Judge concludes that the Defendant has breached the Injunction they will be in contempt of court and can be given a custodial sentence of up to 2 years imprisonment.
Many people are shocked that the County Court has the power to send a person to prison in these circumstances and unfortunately they don't get the professional help to defend the proceedings. Where the Court does grant an emergency Injunction without the Defendant being notified of the hearing, the Court will arrange a second hearing for the Defendant to attend to decide whether the Injunction should stay in place. If the Defendant is legally represented at that time arguments can be put forward to ask the Court to dismiss the Injunction or at the very least, vary the terms so that it is not unduly restrictive on the Defendant. A legal representative will also fight to ensure a Power of Arrest is only attached in the most serious of situations.
By Elizabeth Lowe, housing solicitor