Anti-social behaviour

Glossary of terms

Mediation

Ealing Mediation Service offers a confidential and professional service, mainly focusing on neighbourhood disputes. They assist residents resolve disputes and conflicts without the need of legal action. All categories (A, B and C) can be referred to mediation with the exception of domestic violence or where a person is unable to represent himself/herself, unless they have an advocate that can attend with them, for example, social services. One of the parties involved must consider mediation in order for a referral to be made. 

Acceptable Behaviour Contract

Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (ABCs) are written agreements generally between a young person, the young persons parent(s), Ealing Council, the police and Youth Services. The young person agrees not to carry out a series of identifiable behaviours which have been defined as anti-social. ABCs are mainly used for young persons but they can also be used for adults.

ABCs are voluntary agreements and are signed by all the parties mentioned above. The contract specifies a list of anti-social acts in which the young person has been involved and which they agree not to continue. This is monitored by the community safety team and the police. Youth Services offer support to the young person. ABCs usually last for six months after which the contract is reviewed. They can be used to improve the quality of life for local people by tackling behaviour such as harassment, graffiti, criminal damage and verbal abuse.

There is no penalty in law for refusing to sign an ABC or for breaching one, however, these circumstances can be used as evidence in applications before the courts.

Parenting Contracts

A Parenting Contract is a written agreement that can be made when there is reason to believe that a child has engaged in, or is likely to engage in, criminal conduct or anti-social behaviour. The aim is to prevent further such behaviour and a parent and a team member will sign up to an agreed standard of behaviour for the child. The contract lasts for six months but can be extended. As with ABCs, Youth Services offer support to the young person and also to the parent(s). Again there is no penalty in law for refusing to sign or breaching a contract, however, these circumstances can be used as evidence in applications before the courts.

Parenting Orders

A Parenting Order is obtained upon application from the magistrates' court. It contains conditions, for example, instructing a parent or guardian to attend parenting programmes. Depending on the conditions, Parenting Orders can last from three months to a maximum of 12 months. Breach of a Parenting Order usually results in a fine being imposed by the court.

Notice of Seeking Possession

A Notice of Seeking Possession (NOSP) is served on a secure tenant when the tenant breaches their tenancy condition(s). The notice can start with immediate effect and a housing officer should monitor the situation. If the situation is resolved then no action need be taken, but if the conditions of the NOSP are breached at any time during the following 12 months then the housing officer should consider legal action.

Legal action

If the breaches are of a serious nature and a NOSP has been served then the housing officer should prepare witness statements and refer the case to the legal department. The housing officer should also instruct the legal department of what they wish to be applied for in court, for example, Demotion Notice, Outright Possession Order etc.

Possession Orders

Suspended Possession Order (SPO) – A suspended possession order means that the court suspends the possession on terms for the tenant to abide by. If the tenant fails to keep to the terms of the SPO, we can return to court and request a warrent to evict the tenant.

Outright Possession Order (OPO) – If the court grants an OPO, then Ealing Council can gain re-possession of the property in question. The court gives ample notice to the resident, for example, 28 days to arrange alternative accommodation and to store their belongings. If, after this period, the resident has not cleared the property, police assistance (with the presence of a bailiff and housing officer) should be requested to evict the tenant. If there are belongings within the property, an inventory should be prepared and the items should be placed in storage for a period of three months. The housing officer arranges for the repairs team to send a locksmith to change the locks and board up any windows and put up a steel door.

Varied Possession Order (VPO) – If an order has already been obtained, for example, for rents, and the anti-social behaviour is being caused by the resident or visitors in the property, then a VPO can be applied for.   

Demotion Order

A Demotion Order replaces a secure tenancy with a less secure form of tenancy - options such as right to buy and right to exchange are removed. This is applied for at the County Court. If the tenant continues to breach the tenancy conditions then there are serious implications, including the tenant's home being repossessed by the local authority. A tenant who has had their tenancy demoted will not regain their secure tenancy status after the demotion period has ended but will become an assured tenant. The demotion period is for 12 months but can be extended if a NOSP is served during the 12 months.

Anti-social Behaviour Orders

Anti-social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) are civil orders to protect the public from behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to anyone not of the same household. An order contains conditions prohibiting the perpetrator from carrying out specific anti-social acts or from entering defined areas and is effective for a minimum of two years.

Examples of anti-social behaviour that can be tackled by ASBOs include racial abuse, harassment, threats, verbal abuse, criminal damage, noise nuisance and vandalism. Where the behaviour is serious and on-going, or the application is adjourned, interim orders may be sought and if need be without notice.

If, without reasonable excuse, the subject of an order does anything which they are prohibited from doing by the order, they are liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years (24 months Detention and Training Order if a minor) or to a fine or to both.

Anti-social Behaviour Injunction

An Anti-social Behaviour Injunction is an order obtained from the court that can control and remedy anti-social behaviour. It prohibits the person concerned from engaging in the behaviour detailed in the injunction and can exclude the person from specified places or areas. The conduct need not cause any such nuisance or annoyance to any specific individual. It is sufficient that it is capable of having that effect. Similarly the anti-social behaviour need not occur in the vicinity of the landlord's housing accommodation. A power of arrest can be requested from the court to be attached to the injunction. The duration of the injunction is decided by the court.

Apart from general anti-social behaviour, injunctions can be obtained to prevent a house being used for an illegal purpose and against a breach of Tenancy Agreement. Where the behaviour is serious and on-going, or the application is adjourned, interim injunctions may be sought and if need be without notice. Breach of an injunction carries a penalty of a period of imprisonment and/or a fine.

Crack House Closure Orders

A closure order is a police-led application on properties where they have reason to believe that the property is being used for the production, supply or use of Class A drugs and there is associated behaviour causing serious nuisance or disorder. This order lasts for three months, however, it can be extended for a further three months. During this time, Ealing Council boards up the property and may apply for a possession order.

Failure to comply with a closure order carries a penalty of a maximum of six months' imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.

Premises Closure Order

A Premises Closure Order is made possible by the changes made to the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, relating to Crack House Closures, by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. The lead authority for this application can be either the police or the local authority. This legislation allows for a closure order to be applied for on premises where a person has engaged in anti-social behaviour and that the use of these premises is associated with significant and persistent disorder or persistent serious nuisance to members of the public. Penalties are the same as for crack houses.