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Home Office concern over misuse of council powers

Stuart Spear11/01/2018 - 13:58

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CPNs could be used to resolve noise complaints
CPNs could be used to resolve noise complaints

CIEH has published updated guidance on the use of Community Protection Notices (CPNs) following Home Office concerns some councils are misusing them.

Introduced under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 the new powers came into force in England and Wales on 20 October 2014 and were in part designed to give EHOs broad new powers to tackle behaviour that falls under the nuisance threshold defined under the Environmental Protection Act.

The legislation aims to tackle a broad spectrum of anti-social behaviour ranging from noise nuisance, litter and fly-tipping offences to poorly controlled pets and even the unmanaged presence of invasive plants like Japanese Knotweed.

The new powers were seen as a way for local authorities, the police and social landlords to manage lower level but persistent and ‘annoying’ anti-social behaviour impacting on communities or individuals.

However, last month the Home Office issued amended guidance outlining the correct application of the powers following concerns that some councils were misusing CPNs by failing to apply proper objectivity over what constituted anti-social behaviour requiring intervention.

‘When drafted the legislation was passed to make it victim centred,’ explains John Pointing, barrister and co-author of the revised CIEH professional guidance.

‘Unfortunately, this has meant some local authorities take the view of the complainant when they must always take an objective approach. Councils sometimes fall into the trap of giving in to pressure when their role must not be to champion the victim’s complaint.’

One often cited example of the powers being misused involves a council using a community protection notice in a noise case involving a crying baby.

The updated Home Office guidance emphasises ‘the importance of ensuring that the powers are used appropriately to provide a proportionate response to the specific behaviour that is causing harm or nuisance without impacting adversely on behaviour that is neither unlawful nor anti-social.’

To reflect these changes the CIEH has published its own new professional guidance targeted at local authorities.‘These powers are a very useful addition to a local authority’s enforcement kit when dealing with persistent, low level and irritating anti-social behaviour, but they have to be properly understood and applied,’ points out Mr Pointing.

Under community protection measures local authorities are given a range of responses. A written warning must be given before the issuing of a CPN.  A breach of the CPN can be followed by either prosecution or the issuing of a fixed penalty notice or a simple caution. An application can also be made for a warrant of seizure or the carrying out of remedial works to resolve the issue.

A local authority can also apply for a civil injunction. ‘Where injunctions are normally considered an act of last resort under this legislation it is clear the Home Office intends them to be used alongside CPNs as a potential remedy for anti-social behaviour,’ explains Mr Pointing. 

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