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Social Housing Speed Read – Revised guidance on The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014

The Government has published new guidance on the use of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (the Act).

The aim of the guidance is to ensure that the anti-social behaviour (ASB) powers are used to best effect whilst also ensuring the most vulnerable, including the homeless, are not disproportionately targeted.

Why has the guidance been updated?

Original guidance to the Act was produced in July 2014. The new revised version was published by the Government on 24 December 2017, updating it as a result of experiences occurring since new powers were introduced.

Charities and other bodies have raised concerns that the powers and orders in the Act were being used disproportionately, in particular against the homeless, rough sleepers, street entertainers and groups of people who gather in town centres but do not engage in ASB.

The Government wants to ensure ‘transparency and accountability’ in the operation of the powers under the Act therefore the guidance has been implemented to focus the use of the powers on actual and specific anti-social behavioural problems as opposed to them being used unduly to deal with blanket bans on behaviour such as rough sleeping.

What is the guidance?

The guidance is available to aid those who are able to utilise the powers under the Act, such as the police, local councils and social landlords, when dealing with ASB in their daily business and local area.

The main focuses of the guidance are:

  • The impact of ASB on victims and communities and how this should be borne in mind of the professionals dealing with ASB cases
  • Making sure legal tests are met before the powers under the act are exercised
  • Emphasising using the powers appropriately and proportionately when providing a response to an ASB situation

The guidance is split into two parts:

  • Part 1 discusses the ‘safety net’ of the ASB case review/community trigger which gives victims and communities the right to request a review of their case, where a threshold is met, if they feel they have not had a satisfied response to their complaints. The relevant bodies, including housing associations, are under a duty to undertake such a review and must therefore have an ASB case review procedure in place. Part 1 also discusses the Community Remedy which gives victims an opportunity to have input in out-of-court punishments where ASB issues are dealt with through a community resolution disposal.
  • Part 2 discusses the powers available for professionals under the Act setting out the details of the legal tests that must be met and how to put victims first when exercising the powers.

What powers are available to social landlords under the Act?

Social landlords are one of the relevant bodies the guidance aims to assist whilst making use of the powers under the Act. The following are most commonly used by social landlords:

  • Civil injunctions: civil injunctions are a civil power whose aim is to set a clear standard of behaviour to those acting anti-socially. Although civil, it is a formal sanction that can be used by social landlords in relation to their housing management objectives. When considering whether to action a civil injunction, the guidance suggests agencies should contact all potential victims and witnesses in determining whether the behaviour of the person in question has caused distress, nuisance, harassment etc. This approach is to uphold the focus of the guidance on ensuring victims and communities feel their complaints are taken seriously and that they are being heard.
  • Absolute ground for possession: this power was introduced by the Act to speed up the possession process where ASB or criminality has already been proven by a court. The ground is available for secure and assured tenancies and can be utilised by social and private landlords. The guidance encourages landlords to use this power sparingly and only in the most serious cases. Council tenants have a statutory right to request a review of the landlord’s decision to exercise this ground and the new guidance states that housing associations are expected to make a similar review procedure available to their tenants.

Victoria Atkins, the Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability has said the revised guidance will “empower local agencies by providing even greater clarity on where and when these powers should be applied, helping to keep our public spaces, communities and families safe.”

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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