The Old System
Under the old Crime and Disorder Act 1998 the focus was on the much famed ASBO (Anti-social Behaviour Order) which prohibited people (all wearing ‘hoodies’, of course) from doing certain things (sometimes with time stipulations). An application was made to the magistrates court for an order by an enforcement authority in response to a case of ongoing ASB or in the course of other proceedings taking place.
Whilst they could be effective in stopping certain acts there was a lack of focus on prevention and the root causes of anti-social behaviour (ASB). For example, a prohibition on certain behaviours to those with drug and alcohol problems did nothing to address an underlying addiction. As a result there was a high breach rate (some suggest up to 70%).
The New System
Under the new system enforcement agencies are required to consider the causes of ASB. This, in theory, enables them to prevent recurrence (rather than just prohibit it). As such there is involvement from clinical commissioning groups and potential for consulting social service and other health care professionals.
The range of enforcement agencies now include social landlords, police and local authorities; and enforcement agencies are required to engage with each other in order to share intelligence, form more effective solutions and speed up enforcement responses.
What Is ASB?
ASB is any behaviour that causes distress, misery, harassment or a lack of respect. It can come from a feeling of intimidation when the victim is outside their home or in garden; or can involve a lack of respect for a neighbourhood and/or it’s inhabitants. A bit like public nuisance the anti-social behaviour legislation is a catch-all and encompasses a wide variety of behaviours. There are, however, specific definitions in the legislation that relate to the enforcement tools that may be applied.
When Are the Powers Applied?
When it comes to noise there is more specific legislation: namely the statutory nuisance powers contained in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. However, there may be some circumstances where that legislation may not be appropriate or ideal, for example where:
- It does not meet the threshold for statutory nuisance;
- It may not qualify as a statutory nuisance (e.g. ASB in the street); or
- The noise is part of a much wider pattern of ASB associated with the perpetrator
At that point the anti-social behaviour powers may be able to step in fill up any gaps that arise. However, it can also complement and work alongside other regimes, particularly statutory nuisance.