Anti-Social Behaviour Legislation Retains Police Discretion

Anti-social behaviour legislation retains police discretion

Article by Jasmin McDermott, Police Oracle

Guidance document for officers and staff emphasises role of police in deciding appropriate action against anti-social behaviour whilst having greater community input.

New legislation detailing how police, councils and other agencies tackle anti-social behaviour with a greater focus on victims still retains police discretion in the deployment of several different resolutions.

Practical guidance issued by the Home Office details the importance of police in shaping and ultimately deciding on actions that could be taken against perpetrators of anti-social behaviour.

As part of the shake-up of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, a range of community measures will be introduced, including the community trigger and community remedy. These will come into effect on October 20.

Specifically, the community trigger places responsibility on police and other agencies to deal with anti-social behaviour that may have been overlooked once a mutually agreed threshold has been reached. This decision, which will require engagement from officers, will need to be based on the type of anti-social behaviour experienced by victims in the force area.

The guidance stipulates that the threshold must be no higher than three complaints of anti-social behaviour in a six month period. When an application for a case review is made and the threshold has been met, the relevant agencies will be required to act.

As previously reported, concerns were raised by staff associations that this particular element of the legislation caused concern that limited police resources may be stretched even further by “spurious” complains.

However, while the police and other agencies will be required to act, this will be in the form of an assessment to determine the appropriate response.

The other key element of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which received Royal Assent in March, is the community remedy – which gives victims a say and choice in the out-of-court punishment given to perpetrators.

Police discretion

The Act places a statutory duty on the police and crime commissioner to publically consult on what actions they would consider appropriate to include on the community remedy document.

However, a caveat to this is that the list of actions must be agreed by both the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable.

This list will then be presented to a victim by an officer, who can chose an appropriate action. The office will still retain their discretion and make the final decision on what they feel is appropriate.

Before making a decision, the officer must:

Have evidence that the person has engaged in anti-social behaviour

Have an admission of guilt from that person and their agreement that they will participate in the remedy

Believe that the evidence is sufficient for taking proceedings for a civil injunction, or other court proceedings, caution, or fixed penalty notice, but believe that a remedy would be more appropriate

The document states: “The new powers will allow the police, councils, social landlords and others to deal with problems quickly.

“A community resolution enables the police to deal more proportionately with lower level crime and anti-social behaviour in a timely and transparent manner that takes into account the needs of the victim, perpetrator and wider community, outside the formal criminal justice system.”

The six new powers that officers will have within the legislation are: injunctions, criminal behaviour orders, dispersal powers, community protection notices, recovery of possession of dwelling-houses and local involvement and accountability (the community remedy).

The document states: “In many cases, informal early intervention is successful in changing behaviours and protecting communities.”

Superintendent Angie Whitaker, anti-social behaviour lead at West Midlands Police, said: “The new law gives police new powers to react swiftly should any issues develop that need a rapid response, such as imposing spontaneous dispersal orders to keep troublemakers away from a specified area.”

To read the guidance in full, click here.