This article follows on from my last one regarding the various court orders which can be used to prevent anti-social behaviour which can be obtained by using the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
I have not been able to write an article for the last two week`s, so to refresh, the previous one described what can be done to prevent people who are causing anti-social behaviour and a disturbance in communities and this one will refer to premises, such as houses or clubs.
The 2014 Act simplified the various court orders which were used, because these were more complicated in some ways, but also, they were not written to cover certain circumstances. For example, some reader may remember what were known as Crack House Closures, which described a premises that was used by drug addicts and there was disorder as a result, however, the problems with these were two fold; firstly you required evidence of class `A` drugs being used, secondly, there had to be anti-social behaviour too, so without both of these elements, the law did not assist, so residents had to put up with anti-social if the police or local authority could not prove there was drug misuse at the premises.
Under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, this is no longer the case because it recognises that premises where there is an on-going disturbance causes a significant impact to the quality of people`s lives, so there is no need to have a drug element – just proof that there is anti-social behaviour.
The Act applies to both residential homes as well as commercial places, such as pubs and clubs. It also covers anti-social behaviour nearby those premises too where there is a link that the disturbance is being caused by people who are attending those premises.
The threshold of evidence is quite high, therefore people need to have reported an on-going disturbance and the police or council patrol staff will need to be aware of the problem and provide evidence too. In addition, the attempts to speak to people responsible for the premises and the efforts to get them to stop the problems will need to be well documented, because if a Premises Closure Notice and Order are served, then the court will need to be totally assured that all reasonable steps have been taken, since the police or local authority will be seeking permission to close the property and to prevent people entering it.
Residents and people using an area close to where the property is will need to assist in providing evidence. Some may fear repercussions, which is understandable, therefore they can explain to the police or council what problems they experience and the impact the anti-social behaviour has had on their lives, which a police officer can then provide this evidence on their behalf and refer to them as `resident A` for example.
Once evidence has been obtained and it can be shown that the only way to solve the problem is for an application to the magistrate court for a Premises Closure Notice, then either the police or local authority can serve a notice first, which is served on the owner, or someone who has responsibility for the property, like a tenant. In the case of commercial premises, this can be the owner or licensee.
The notice lasts for 2 days which gives the applicant time to list a hearing at the court, where an application for an order is made.
Once the notice is served, then the only persons allowed to remain are the owner or tenant, so no-one else can enter, otherwise this is a criminal offence where any unauthorised person can be arrested. The notice will therefore name the people who are allowed to remain.
Following the application to the court for the order, if successful, then this will be done within the 2 day notice period and the premises can be closed for up to 3 months, where no-one can enter.
It is important for the applicant to tell the court what plan is in place, because there is no point in closing somewhere for it to carry on in the same anti-social way as before after the 3 month period, so the magistrate will need to know that the housing provider or owner will take back possession of their home nd rent it to someone responsible, or in the case of a club or pub, someone better appointed to manage the premises will take over, so when the order period expires, there is no continuation of the problems.
Having used this legislation myself, I know that it takes time to build a case and residents understandably become frustrated that they put up with on-going anti-social behaviour, but being patient is rewarding when action is taken and it resolves the problem once and for all.
PC 1860 Mark Ranola.
Yateley Police Office.