Opinion: Draft Anti-Social Behaviour Bill explained
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Legal
The Anti-Social Behaviour Bill was published in December 2012. Here Helen Tucker, partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors, explains how the proposed changes to current law are designed to consolidate the number of ASB remedies of ever increasing powers and assist landlords in regaining possession of their properties.
The Bill received “pre-legislative scrutiny” by the Home Affairs Committee who published their report on 15 February 2013 making recommendations for changes before the draft Bill goes through Parliament. It is not likely to become law until 2015.
There has been much debate about three changes in particular – getting rid of the ASBO; changing the well-established Injunction (ASBI) and introducing a mandatory possession option for ASB. The Home Affairs Committee addressed the first two in some detail but strangely their Report is entirely silent on the mandatory possession proposals, even though this issue occupied much of the evidence before the committee.
The Bill as it stands proposes five conditions which if they exist can lead to a mandatory possession order, such as where they have already been convicted of a serious offence or have breached an ASB injunction. These ‘mandatory grounds’ would in theory speed up the process of eviction and thus reduce costs and the impact on suffering witnesses and their communities. The concern remains that “proportionality” challenges will be brought and derail the process but in our view the recent case law is proving more helpful to landlords and it is becoming much harder for occupiers to succeed in such challenges.
The proposed new Injunction to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNA) will extend to minors aged 10+ and is likely to still be the main tool used by landlords. However, the Home Affairs Committee considers that the definitions of ‘nuisance’ used within the IPNA are too broad, and wants to introduce “intent or recklessness” to the definition. This will be messy to prove.
The Bill also proposes a greater level of community involvement in the punishment of ASB offenders. This is called the “Community Remedy” and means that local areas would be able to decide (within reason) what punishments are used to tackle low level crime and ASB out of court. The Committee want to avoid creating a “modern day stocks”.
Helpfully the Committee recognizes that current court timescales do not reflect the misery caused by ASB and that cuts to court services have not assisted. As they noted, housing providers deal with over 300,000 ASB cases each year and due to cuts to other services it is not likely this number will decrease. This is why we support the mandatory ground – even if cases are defended it should be a quicker route than at present. We continue to experience significant delays in listing contested cases for trials and can only hope ASB cases will get more priority in future.