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Civil Justice Council report identifies significant problems around anti-social behaviour injunctions

Anti-social behaviour injunctions (ASBIs) – which were introduced by the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 – are not working, a report published this month by the Civil Justice Council has claimed.

The 2014 Act saw the transfer of much work relating to anti-social behaviour from the criminal courts to the civil courts, and ASBIs replace anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs).

A CJC working party, chaired by Civil Justice Council member HHJ Cotter QC, has spent nearly two years examining matters such as the steps taken before an issue is brought to the court, the conduct of court proceedings, the use and content of orders, and the penalties for their breach.

“The working party found significant inconsistencies or problems in all areas it considered,” the CJC said.

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The report highlighted that there has been insufficient work to monitor the effect of ASBIs, following their introduction. “There is an absence of data available to assess or understand fundamental concerns, such as the true scale of their use.”

The CJC said the report additionally highlighted “how cases are often not tackled collaboratively by the public services concerned and that underlying and often causative issues such as mental health and substance abuse are therefore not addressed”.

The report, which can be viewed here, makes 15 recommendations. They include:

  • an urgent request for the Home Office and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service to collect data on these cases to allow for full analysis of their use and efficacy
  • widening the scope and provision of the NHS Liaison & Diversion service, to ensure a joined-up approach by local agencies to tackle the underlying causes of anti-social behaviour
  • widening the scope and provision of legal aid to ensure that no individual faces the prospect of being sent to jail without access to legal advice, and
  • adopting a new sentencing guideline to be used by the judiciary when hearing cases of anti-social behaviour.

HHJ Cotter QC said: “The working party found a number of serious problems within the current use of the 2014 Act in the civil courts to address anti-social behaviour. The aim of the legislation in achieving changes in the actions of those engaged in anti-social behaviour, for the long-term benefit of victims and communities are at the moment often not being achieved.

“We have made wide ranging recommendations for immediate and substantial changes to the use and operation of the Act and hope that they will be quickly implemented and the report carefully considered by all those involved in tackling anti-social behaviour.”

The Master of the Rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, chair of the CJC and Head of Civil Justice, said: “The Civil Justice Council has, with this report, shown again how valuable the independent forum it provides can be. This invaluable report highlights the need to work collaboratively to tackle the shared issue of anti-social behaviour.

“I encourage all of those who have an interest in this area to consider the report without delay. I will certainly be looking to take forward those recommendations which are directly within my area of responsibility in the courts.”

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