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Police Powers for Dealing with Anti-Social Behaviour

As reducing anti-social behaviour and renewing respect within communities is both a national and local priority, there are now various enforcement tools and measures available to both Dyfed-Powys Police and the partner agencies - some of which are listed below.

However, it is important that the public consider how even though a particular response may address the issues theoretically, it may not be the best route to take in practice. In order to ensure that anti-social behaviour is addressed effectively and permanently, all individual circumstances must be considered in detail.

Warning Letters

The first action taken in ending anti-social behaviour by a specific known person is the issue of a warning letter in conjunction with partner agencies.

  • The letter will stipulate what anti-social behaviour the offender has been witnessed conducting, and what the outcome of continuing with this behaviour will be.
  • Should the perpetrator be under the age of 18, then the letter will be addressed to the legal guardians.
  • The issue of a warning letter may also be in conjunction with a meeting (often in the perpetrators own home) between the perpetrator and suitable partner agencies. The purpose of such a meeting will be to both identify any support needs that the individual may have, and to also emphasise the seriousness of the situation.
  • In the vast majority of cases, the issue of a written warning is enough to stop the anti-social behaviour. If not, further action will be taken in the form of the enforcement tools listed below.

Acceptable Behaviour Contracts

An Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC) is a voluntary written agreement established between one or more partner agencies and an individual, outlining what the perpetrator should or should not do in order to improve their behaviour and avoid further action.

  • The contract is flexible in as much as the terms of the contract will be tailored to the individual, and it is an intervention designed to engage the perpetrator in acknowledging how their anti-social behaviour affects others.
  • An ABC can only be issued to a person aged 10 or over. If the conditions are breached, then the ABC can also be used as evidence in applying for an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO).

Dyfed-Powys Police and the partner agencies will consider using an ABC in the following circumstances:

  • When a perpetrator of low-level anti-social behaviour has been identified.
  • When a warning letter has been unsuccessful in addressing the problem.

Parenting Contracts

Parenting contracts are voluntary agreements made between the partnership agencies and the parent / guardian of a child involved in anti-social behaviour. They can be used alongside ABCs or other interventions and specify what parents will do to address the anti-social behaviour of a child or children for whom they are responsible.

  • As with ABCs, parenting contracts are voluntary, flexible and non-legal, and may contain such conditions as good school attendance and nightly curfews.
  • The flexibility of the contract allows for the stipulations of the contract to be tailored specifically to the behaviour and needs of the offender and guardian.
  • If a parenting contract is breached, then it may be necessary to apply for a parenting order or anti-social behaviour order.
  • It may be necessary for the guardian to attend a parenting programme as a condition of the parenting contract.

Parenting Orders

Parenting orders can be made by a criminal court, family court or magistrates’ court, acting under civil jurisdiction when there has been a problem with a young person’s behaviour.

Like parenting contracts, parenting orders impose conditions to which the parent or guardian must comply. The conditions of a parenting order will usually include adhering to a parenting program, but can also include other requirements such as ensuring that the child attends school or does not engage in certain behaviours.

Whereas a parental contract is a voluntary measure, failure to adhere to the terms of a parenting order is a criminal offence.

Anti-Social Behaviour Orders

Anti-social Behaviour Orders (ASBO) are civil orders that protect the public from prolonged behaviour that causes, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress.

  • An ASBO must be applied for through a Magistrates Court.
  • An ASBO can be imposed on any perpetrator aged ten years or over, and can be granted for a fixed term ranging from a minimum of two years to an indefinite period of time (or until a further order is made). It is best practice for orders placed on young people to be reviewed after a year.

The list of agencies that can apply to the courts for an ASBO has been extended since it was introduced in 1999. Any one of the following agencies can now apply for an order, subject to consultation with other agencies:

  • Police forces
  • Local authorities
  • British transport police
  • Registered social landlords
  • Housing action trusts
  • Environment agency

The use of an ASBO will not be considered as a primary intervention except when it is the most appropriate and necessary remedy.

Community Agreements

Community agreements are settlements reached between the residents of a community to resolve disputes or merely outline what those involved in that neighbourhood wish their life to be like.

They put their expectations in writing and each household or individual is given a copy. Where appropriate, copies may also be displayed in public spaces, such as community centres or in local newsletters.

Crack House Closure Orders

A range of powers are available to the police in conjunction with the local authority, to enable the swift closure of properties taken over by drug dealers and drug users of Class A drugs.

The supply and use of drugs from residential properties has emerged as a major cause of harm to communities - impacting negatively on community life, regeneration and social capital.

  • In order to combat these issues, a senior police officer can issue a closure notice on premises that they have reason to believe are being used for the production, supply or use of Class A drugs, and are causing serious nuisance or disorder.
  • Police can fix the notice to a prominent place on the building and may enter the premises in question, using reasonable force if necessary, for the purpose of serving the notice.
  • The police must then apply to the Magistrates Court within 48 hours for a closure order.

The closure order can last for up to three months and can be extended to six months. During the period of closure it will be an offence to enter or remain in the property and the premises will be sealed.

A closure order will be considered immediately if it is believed that a property has been taken over by drug users or dealers of Class A drugs. The arrival of a crack house on an estate or in a community is a serious threat to the safety and well-being of its residents; this power is intended to provide swift action can be taken to close down such residencies.

Dispersal Powers

The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 gives the police, working in partnership with local authorities, powers to target action in problem areas to help communities remove intimidation and anti-social behaviour from the streets.

An authorising officer can designate an area where there is persistent anti-social behaviour and intimidation, within which police and police community support officers have the power to disperse problem groups of two or more and exclude people from the area for up to 24 hours.

They also have the power in that designated area to take a child home if they are not under the control of an adult between the hours of 9pm and 6am.

The designated dispersal area could be as small as a cash point or shopping arcade, or as wide as a whole local authority area, providing that there is evidence of anti-social behaviour. The local authority must also agree to the designation - a decision which will usually be made as part of the strategic work of a Community Safety Partnership.

Removal of a Child to their Place of Residence

If a designated dispersal area is in force, a constable or PCSO may remove a young person to their place of residence where:

  • The person is in a public place within the relevant locality;
  • There are reasonable grounds to believe that they are under 16 years of age;
  • It is between the hours of  9pm and 6am;
  • There are reasonable grounds to believe that they are not under the control of a parent or other responsible person aged 18 years or over.

The power is to protect children under the age of 16 within a designated dispersal area at night from:

  • The physical and social risks of anti-social behaviour by others;
  • To prevent children from themselves participating in anti-social behaviour within a designated dispersal area.

Fixed Penalty Notices

Fixed penalty Notices (FPNs) are one-off fines issued for anti-social behaviour designated to help police tackle low-level nuisance (generally of an environmental nature) and can be issued by local authority officers and in a limited capacity by police community support officers.

FPNs can be issued to anyone over 10 years old and are penalties of £50 for most offences, but £100 for noise-related offences.

Receiving a penalty notice does not count as getting a conviction. Recipients have 14 days in respect of a FPN to pay the penalty or request a hearing. Failure to pay a penalty may result in a higher fine imposed by the court or imprisonment.

Examples of low-level anti-social behaviour where a FPN may be issued include:

  • Dropping litter
  • Minor graffiti offences or fly posting
  • Not clearing up dog fouling
  • Where noise is causing a statutory nuisance
  • Where excessive noise is coming from a private residence during the night

Penalty Notices For Disorder

As with Fixed Penalty Notices, Penalty Notices for Disorder (PNDs) are one-off fines which can be issued on the spot for a range low-level disorder offences. PNDs can be issued by the police, and again, in a limited capacity by community support officers and other accredited persons.

They can be issued to anyone over 16 years old and attract penalties of £50 or £80, depending on the offence.

Receiving a penalty notice does not count as getting a conviction. Recipients have 21 days to pay the penalty or to request a hearing, or the penalty will be re-issued at one and a half times the original amount. Failure to pay a penalty may result in a higher fine imposed by the court or imprisonment.

PNDs are issued for a specified range of offences to include:

  • Behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to others
  • Drunk and disorderly behaviour in a public place
  • Destroying and damaging property up to the value of £500
  • Retail theft under £200
  • Sale of alcohol to a person under 18 years of age
  • Selling alcohol to a drunken person
  • Using threatening words or behaviour
  • Breach of a fireworks curfew