Friday, 25 May 2012

Antisocial Behaviour: The Home Office has an Idea

The government has had an idea. Huzzah I hear you say. It’s the Home Office. Oh ‘eck I hear you reply. Teresa May battled through a cold to launch the Government’s new White Paper on anti-social behavior earlier this week. The paper seeks to abolish the totemic New Labour institution of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders and replace them with what strike me as more or less the same thing, re-branded. The White Paper doesn’t make specific reference to public sex or noisy neighbours shagging each other into an energetic frenzy with particularly noisy vigour. However, as The Sun gently reminded us (it’s unclear how Murdoch feels about these issues – maybe one for Leveson?), both activities have previously been subject to Anti-Social Behaviour Orders.

It will certainly be interesting to see whether these points are raised and discussed in the process of passing the new law, and whether explicit mention is made to the application of these new powers to both noisy bonking neighbours and those utilising public sex environments (and whether the focus is limited to dogging - and what is understood by the term is that is the one used).

According to the Home Office, the antisocial behaviour White Paper, Putting Victims First: more effective responses to antisocial behaviour, will reduce 19 complex existing powers to six simple and flexible new ones. And for the first time, victims who feel their problems are not being taken seriously enough will have the right to force action through a newly introduced Community Trigger. The Trigger will be trialled in Manchester, Brighton and Hove and West Lindsey in Lincolnshire from 1 June.

The BBC have done a brilliant overview of the whole thing, which you can check out here.  It's clearer than the White Paper which you can read in full here.

For me, the community trigger is the really fascinating new element.  It requires the police to respond if five households complain about the same issue or a single person complains three times.  Think of this in the context of public sex environments.  The one farmer owner complains three times about 'cars driving past in the early hours of the morning' - cars driving to an isolated cruising location.  Assuming these individuals are not making any more noise than an 'ordinary' car passing, why should the Police respond in this circumstance?  Is that appropriate?  Is it an efficient use of police resource?  The five households scenario seems less likely but it's quite possible that one particularly militant neighbour can round up others for a cause they feel passionate about.  Community petitions are a typical example of this.  It's always difficult to say no to something that seems worthy when somebody knocks on your door asking to support an initiative, or the newsagent flags it up when you pop int he local shop. It's a well meaning law but I have reservations about how it could be applied - the pilots will be fascinating.

Of course, another alternative is to record the whole thing and stick it on YouTube....

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