Anti social behaviour

Tags: Anti-social behaviour, Housing Act 1985, local authorities, Statement, Housing Act, Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, Environmental Protection Act 1990, South Northants Council, tenants, harassment, legal action, Disability Discrimination Act 1995, social landlords, Crime and Disorder Act 1998, Acceptable behaviour, South Northamptonshire Council, Homelessness Act 2002, mission statement, comprehensive training, introductory tenancy, sub-tenant, criminal purpose, County Court, Specialist Mediation Services, Support agencies, nuisance tenants, mutual understanding, Human Rights Act, Policy Objectives, Magistrates' Court, local authority, social landlord, policies and procedures, reported incidents, Freedom of Information Act, Children Act 1989, Data Protection Act 1998, Environmental Health, Environment, Statutory Nuisance, Noise nuisance, public order offences
Content: Created on 01/06/06 12:03:00 Anti-social behaviour South Northamptonshire Council Housing Division Our statement of policy
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy
Contents
1.
Background and Context .................................................................. 3
2.
policy objectives............................................................................ 3
3.
Legislative/Regulatory Framework ....................................................... 4
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998...............................................................................4
Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 ..................................................................................5
Best Value and the Local Government Act 1999 .............................................................5
Race Relations Amendment Act 2000..........................................................................5
human rights Act 1998...........................................................................................5
Homelessness Act 2002 ..........................................................................................6
Data Protection Act 1998 .........................................................................................6
Housing Act 1985,1996 and 2004...............................................................................6
Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Statutory Nuisance Act 1993 ...............................7
Disability Discrimination Act 1995 ...............................................................................7
Children Act 1989 ..................................................................................................7
Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 ..........................................................7
4.
Examples of ASB ........................................................................... 8
5.
Implementation.............................................................................. 8
Eviction - Housing Act 1985 (as amended) ....................................................................9
Tenancy Conditions ............................................................................................. 10
Demotion order ................................................................................................... 11
Injunctions......................................................................................................... 11
Acceptable behaviour agreements ............................................................................ 11
ASBOS 11
6.
Animals...................................................................................... 12
7.
Multi Agency Partnerships................................................................ 12
8.
Support for complainants/witnesses..................................................... 13
9.
Prevention is better than cure ............................................................ 14
Mediation .......................................................................................................... 14
Support agencies ................................................................................................ 14 10. Responsibilities ............................................................................ 14 Page 1
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy 11. Monitoring................................................................................... 15 12. Training ..................................................................................... 15 13. Review ...................................................................................... 15 1. Page 2
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy 1. Background and Context The Council will through its community leadership, preserve, enhance, improve and develop the quality of life of all its residents and businesses in the district. We recognise that in order to help fulfil our mission statement we must be effective in tackling Anti Social Behaviour (ASB1) in our properties or in the neighbourhoods those properties are in. Any response to incidents must be proportionate and reasonable. Residents will be encouraged to resolve minor problems themselves. 2. Policy Objectives We will: Seek to prevent ASB through our allocations decisions. Ensure that every report of ASB is quickly and formally acknowledged and that an initial action plan will be agreed. Offer a series of options to a complainant ranging from advice, conciliation and support. Promote non-confrontational approaches to the resolution of disputes. Demonstrate by our actions that we will not tolerate ASB. Treat our tenants fairly and act lawfully and proportionately. Work in partnership with organisations that can assist us in prevention as well as on a caseby-case basis. Use the most appropriate course of action in the context of the ASB and commence legal action promptly where appropriate. Commit our department to effective management, continual improvement and best practice in this area. Ensure all complaints are treated seriously and thoroughly investigated in a nonjudgmental way. Identify and interview all interested parties. 1 Anti-social behaviour Page 3
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy Maintain confidentiality, subject to the council's legal obligations with reference to the disclosure of information under the Freedom of Information Act. Carry out investigations promptly. Log all reported incidents. Investigate all incidents and where possible obtain corroboration of them from witnesses or from other agencies. Seek to involve our tenants in developing our policies, procedures and strategies. It is accepted that: Anyone has the right to a chosen lifestyle providing it does not spoil the quality of life of others. There must be some degree of tolerance of, and respect for the requirements and needs of others. There is a larger role to promote and protect the interests of those living in the district. Where cases involve parties who are either receiving support with their housing or who are seen to have special needs or a degree of vulnerability, other agencies will be contacted. We will document evidence of all such contact including copies of correspondence, emails, notes of case conferences. All cases should either be resolved or have a plan of action agreed at the first interview stage or be closed within 28 days from date of initial complaint. All cases will be reviewed quarterly by a Senior Officer2. 3. Legislative/Regulatory Framework The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 Section 17 places a duty on local authorities and the police to form a partnership and develop, with key partners, a community safety strategy to tackle crime and disorder. The Act places a duty on Local Authorities to take account of crime and disorder issues in all of its decisions. 2 Head of Housing, housing services Manager, Principal Housing Services Officer Page 4
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy Section 115 facilitates information exchange by providing that any person can lawfully disclose information where necessary for the purposes of any provision of the act i.e. primarily to reduce crime. This exchange of information is governed by an agreed data sharing protocol between the Council, Police and other agencies. The Act also introduced ASBOs, Child Curfews, Parenting Orders and Child Safety Orders. The Crime and Disorder Act created new offences, including assaults, criminal damage, public order offences and harassment, all in relation to racially aggravated incidents. Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 This Act conciliates the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and increases the range of powers available to social landlords to tackle anti-social behaviour quickly and effectively. It places an obligation on social landlords to prepare ASB policies and procedures and to publish a statement and summary of those policies and procedures. It extends the current powers for a social landlord to apply for an injunction where a person's behaviour is affecting housing management functions. Breach of an ASBO can result in fines up to Ј5,000 and/or imprisonment up to 5 years on indictment. The Act also gives social landlords the ability to apply to the court for a demotion order. Best Value and the Local Government Act 1999 The Local Government Act 1999 applies a duty of Best Value on local authorities to deliver real and sustained improvements in the quality of services which local people receive. Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 The general duty under this Act is to: Eliminate unlawful racial discrimination. Promote equality of opportunity. Promote good race relations between people of different racial groups. Human Rights Act 1998 This legislation ensures that the proposed action being taken against a perpetrator is a reasonable and proportionate response to the anti-social behaviour in question. Under this Act a victim suffering an abuse of one of the human rights will be entitled to complain to a court of law in the United Kingdom and seek compensation. Page 5
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy Key rights that are significant for the Council are: Prohibition of discrimination. Respect for private and family life. Right to a fair and public hearing. Homelessness Act 2002 The Homelessness Act places a duty on the Council and its statutory partners to work together to prevent homelessness and to help sustain vulnerable people in particular in their tenancies. Data Protection Act 1998 All personal data processed by the Council must be: Obtained and processed fairly and lawfully. Kept accurate and up to date. Held for no longer than is necessary. Subject to appropriate security measures. Housing Act 1985,1996 and 2004 The Housing Act 1985 provides a sanction on perpetrators of nuisance and anti-social behaviour whether they are tenants or other persons who are affecting those lawfully in the area of the housing authority. Eviction for harassment and anti-social behaviour can be achieved under two different grounds in schedule 2 of the 1985 Act. Ground 1 covers breaches of tenancy agreement and Ground 2 is specifically for nuisance or annoyance and/or certain convictions. The Housing Act 1996 section 144 amends the Housing Act 1985. Ground 2 extends the scope allowing local authorities to give evidence of behaviour that justifies the repossession of a tenancy. The Housing Act gives social landlords more powers against antisocial tenants by strengthening the grounds for possession to include. Behaviour likely to cause nuisance (which enables professional witnesses to be used) Anti-social behaviour in the locality of the tenant's property Anti-social behaviour by visitors to the property Conviction for an arrestable offence in the vicinity of the property Page 6
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy The Housing Act 2004 section 191 amends schedule 3 of the Housing Act 1985 (c.68) with regard to the suspension of certain rights in connection with anti-social behaviour and grounds for withholding consent to assignment by way of exchange. Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Statutory Nuisance Act 1993 Under these Acts if the local authority Environmental health team consider that the noise amounts to a statutory nuisance they can serve an abatement notice. If the nuisance continues without reasonable excuse, the noisemaker can be prosecuted in the Magistrates' Court and if convicted, can be fined up to a maximum of Ј5000, with up to a further Ј500 for each day on which the nuisance continues. Noise officers can obtain a warrant from the Magistrates' Court and can seize equipment. Disability Discrimination Act 1995 The Act gives disabled people rights in a number of areas including: Access to services. Renting property. The Act makes it unlawful for the Council as landlord to discriminate against disabled people in the disposal or management of Council properties in certain circumstances. Children Act 1989 Section 17 of this Act imposes a general duty on local authorities to safeguard and promote the well being of children within the area who are in need, by providing a range and level of services relevant to that child's needs. Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 On 7 April 2005 the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill received Royal Assent following a successful passage through Parliament to become the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. The Act deals with many of the problems affecting the quality of our local environment which forms part of a continuum with anti-social behaviour, vandalism, disorder and levels of crime. The Act provides local authorities, parish and community councils and the Environment Agency with more effective powers and tools to tackle poor environmental quality and anti-social behaviour. In particular the Act includes sections on nuisance and abandoned vehicles, litter, graffiti, waste, noise and dogs. Page 7
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy 4. Examples of ASB Examples of ASB have to be included in our policy. The following is an agreed countywide list of ASB. Harassment of residents or passers-by. verbal abuse. Criminal damage. Graffiti. Engaging in threatening behaviour in large groups. Racial abuse. Smoking or drinking alcohol while under age. Substance misuse. Joyriding. Begging. Prostitution. Kerb-crawling. Throwing missiles. Assault. Vehicle crime. Noise nuisance. This list is not exhaustive and will be revised from time to time. 5. Implementation The remedies available are many and varied. Some are of a conciliatory nature, some are punitive. Some are available to the police and local authorities, others to housing authorities. Whilst not hesitating to use any available remedy in the right circumstances, our initial response will always be to try and resolve ASB without resort to punishment. It is our business to support and maintain council tenancies and to deal with problems fairly and sensitively. Whilst as a landlord we will deal with ASB firmly and we will also use the most appropriate course of action. Minor matters may be dealt with by interview, Page 8
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy letter or personal visit, whilst more serious matters may need the use of injunctions, Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBOs3) or even the need to resort to eviction. In some instances minor incidents of ASB may escalate and require more punitive intervention. However, this will be judged on a case-by-case basis. Eviction - Housing Act 1985 (as amended) The legislation sets out the reasons when we can apply for repossession of a Council tenancy. The Court has discretion as to whether to grant a possession order or not on the basis of ASB (whether by the tenant, people who live with the tenant or visitors). The relevant "grounds" are: Ground 1 Rent lawfully due from the tenant has not been paid or an obligation of the tenancy has been broken or not performed. This ground is primarily used for rent arrears. However, it can also be used in relation to any clause in the tenancy conditions that refers to ASB. Ground 2 The tenant or a person residing in or visiting the dwelling house: Has been guilty of conduct causing or likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance to a person residing, visiting or otherwise engaging in a lawful activity in the locality, or Has been convicted of using the dwelling-house or allowing it to be used for immoral or illegal purposes, or Has been convicted of an arrestable offence committed in, or in the locality of, the dwelling house. Ground 2A The dwelling house was occupied, whether alone or with others, by: A married couple, or A couple living together as husband and wife, and One or both of the partners is a tenant of the dwelling-house, and One partner has left because of violence or threats of violence by the other towards that partner, or 3 Anti-social behaviour orders Page 9
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy A member of the family of that partner who was residing with that partner immediately before the partner left, and The Court is satisfied that the partner who has left is unlikely to return. Ground 3 The condition of the dwelling house or any of the common parts has deteriorated: Owing to acts of waste by, or the neglect of, the tenant or a person residing in the dwelling house and In the case of an act of waste by, or the neglect or default of, a person lodging with the tenant or a sub-tenant of his The tenant has not taken such steps as he ought reasonably to have taken for the removal of the lodger or sub-tenant. Tenancy Conditions It is important that our tenancy conditions reflect our approach to ASB so that we can clearly and unambiguously confirm how we will deal with these matters. The tenancy conditions include clauses that refer directly or indirectly to ASB. The relevant clauses refer to: Care of premises, garden, sheds, greenhouses, conservatories and fencing The state of decoration and cleanliness Damage to premises Use of premises for the purpose of a trade or business Use of premises for a criminal purpose Care of animals Parking of commercial vehicles in a residential area Parking and repair of vehicles and causing an obstruction of other vehicles Causing nuisance, annoyance or harassment Violence to persons or property, or the threat of it Abusive, intimidating or insulting words, behaviour, graffiti or messages. Racial or other harassment is an aggravated breach of our Tenancy Conditions and may result in immediate legal action. Page 10
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy Taking legal proceedings to re-possess someone's home is a drastic step. However, we will not hesitate to do so as a last resort if the ASB is so severe it warrants this kind of action. Chapter 1 of Part 5 of the Housing Act 1996 allows local housing authorities to adopt an introductory tenancy (IT) scheme for all new tenants. Introductory tenants are essentially on probation then can be evicted more easily during the probationary period. They do not have as many rights as secure tenants. South Northants Council has not elected to use I.Ts. Demotion order We may apply to the County Court to allow a tenancy to be brought to an end by a Demotion Order. Upon granting of the order, the tenancy is replaced with a less secure form of tenancy, similar to an I.T. Injunctions Injunctions are a discretionary remedy. This means that the Court can decide whether it would be appropriate for one to be issued. Injunctions are used to control ASB in situ rather than displacing the problem, for example by not evicting nuisance tenants who could then be able to continue the behaviour unchecked in another property. Acceptable behaviour agreements An ABA4 is a voluntary written agreement between two or more parties. For example, an ABC involving one of our tenants may be drawn up between the tenant, housing and the police, and signed by all parties to the contract. ABAs are commonly used for young people but may also be used for adults. The agreement specifies a list of anti-social acts in which the person has been involved and which they agree not to continue. The agreement should state that a breach can be used as evidence in an application of an ASBO or possession order. Such a threat provides an incentive to ensure the terms of the agreement are kept. ASBOS Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOS) are civil orders made by a Court that prohibit the perpetrator from specific anti-social acts and from entering defined areas on a map. An order lasts for a minimum of two years. The purpose of an ASBO is to protect the public 4 Acceptable behaviour agreement Page 11
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy from behaviour that causes, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress, to one or more persons not of the same household. 6. Animals The RSPCA is a useful partner in dealing with animal-related problems. Their staff can advise on the animal's well being and whether the accommodation is suitable. SNC have an animal welfare Officer. An Environmental Health Practitioner can use fixed penalty notices and noise abatement notices to stop a noise that is causing a statutory nuisance. South Northants Council has powers to take action against tenants who are breaching their tenancy agreement by causing nuisance to neighbours including pets not being kept under proper control. 7. Multi Agency Partnerships The range of problems described as ASB do not lend themselves to a "one solution fits all". Effective intervention by partner agencies can avoid the need for formal legal action. Such agencies include: The Police. The Probation Service. Environmental Health Practitioners. Floating support workers. Youth Offending Teams. Schools. social services. U-Turn GPs Victim Support Page 12
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy 8. Support for complainants/witnesses We recognise that some people will have concerns about coming forward and making complaints, particularly if they feel that this could result in intimidation towards them if their identity is revealed. Other complainants may well have concerns about acting as witnesses in any legal action that may be taken by us or our partners once complaints have been investigated. We will therefore offer support to complainants appropriate to their needs in order to encourage them to give the evidence necessary for the matter to be investigated. Where this is not possible, we and our partners will do all we can to investigate the matter and gather evidence without directly involving the victim. In order to demonstrate we are taking the matter seriously, acting professionally and valuing complainants/witnesses, we will ensure: Simple reporting procedures. No unreasonable delay in investigating incidents. An immediate response to any serious nuisance or harassment. We will not make unrealistic promises about the ease or speed in which the matter can be dealt with. Complainants/witnesses are given appropriate support and protection. We will work closely with the Police and other agencies as necessary to ensure witnesses are protected from intimidation. Complainants will be kept informed of action being taken and that agreed timescales are kept to. Complainants are given assistance in collating evidence or making witness statements Complainants receive advice on appearing in Court. Assistance with transport to and from Court if necessary and support in Court. Support and training is given to our own staff acting as witnesses and working with witnesses. Witnesses are made aware of the outcome of cases and what further evidence gathering may be necessary. Page 13
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy 9. Prevention is better than cure We recognise that it is far better to prevent ASB from occurring rather than dealing with it after the event. Therefore, all new tenants will be advised of our ASB policy. Where we have knowledge of potential ASB we may refer the tenant to "the floating support scheme", which provides help to sustain tenancies. Additionally we need a range of initiatives that can be used in conjunction with our partners. These could be: Mediation The service is completely impartial. The service provides a range of mediation techniques from face to face mediation, to shuttling between parties in person or by letter or telephone. The aim is to broker mutual understanding between those concerned and arrive at a compromise that all parties can sign up to. Mediation can be undertaken by housing staff at its simplest level, and by Specialist Mediation Services in more complex cases. Support agencies There are a range of support agencies for people with: Substance misuse problems. Mental health issues. Disability. We will make a referral to the appropriate agency, where the needs are identified, and could be the direct or indirect cause of someone's ASB, 10. Responsibilities The Housing Services Manager will be responsible for the effective implementation of this policy and associated procedures. They will ensure a comprehensive training programme is in place and there is effective liaison with partners. Officers will liaise with ward councillors/members over action being taken, whilst maintaining confidentiality. Page 14
Anti-social behaviour ­ Statement of Policy 11. Monitoring Regular monitoring will take place to ensure that the council is complying with this policy. Performance Information will be reported to Cabinet on a quarterly basis. 12. Training We recognise that our staff must be trained in tackling ASB. All front line staff involved will receive training in best practice, legal solutions, evidence gathering and attendance at Court, and dealing with racial incidents. Training needs will be identified through annual appraisal and development interviews, with staff being kept up to date with current trends and developments by a combination of in house and external training. Where our response to any incident shows the need for further staff training this will be provided. 13. Review This Policy and accompanying procedures will be reviewed annually from the date of adoption i.e. June 2006. The review will take into account changes in legislation and subsequent duties and requirements. Tenants will be involved in the review of this policy and associated procedures. Page 15

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