This research briefing explains what anti-social behaviour is and how local public services in England and Wales tackle it.

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Anti-social behaviour (ASB) encompasses a wide range of behaviours that cause nuisance and harm to others. Local authorities, the police and social landlords share responsibility for tackling ASB at a local level. These public bodies have a range of powers, set out in Parts 1 to 4 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, to tackle ASB. Local public services may also tackle ASB with informal remedies.

ASB powers

Parts 1 to 4 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 provide six ASB powers to local public services. These powers (summarised in the table below) are a consolidation of nineteen that existed prior to the 2014 Act. Taken together, they provide a broader enforcement regime than in the past in which local agencies have stronger powers they can use in more circumstances.

There are no centrally collated and published statistics on the use of these powers. Without robust data, it is hard to assess how they are being used and what impact this is having on ASB.

Civil rights groups have expressed concern that these powers are being used to criminalise vulnerable groups such as homeless people and young adults. There has been particular concern at the inappropriate use of Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs). In December 2017 the Government revised its statutory guidance to frontline professionals on the powers in order to emphasise that PSPOs should not be used to target “behaviour that is neither unlawful nor antisocial.”

Putting the victim first?

The 2014 Act also provides two mechanisms which aim to empower ASB victims and involve them in the response to ASB. These are:

  • Community resolutions: A form of ‘out of court disposal’ in which victims are provided an opportunity to influence how their perpetrator is punished.
  • The Community Trigger: A mechanism by which victims (or those close to them) can request that the relevant authority review how their ASB case was handled.

These mechanisms are key to the Government’s priority to put the ‘victim at the heart of the response to ASB’. Despite this emphasis, the Victims Commissioner said in April 2019 that victims of ASB were ‘being let down’ by local public services who were not adequately prioritising ASB. The Victims Commissioner and the charity ASB Help have called on the Government to provide more oversight on how local public services are running their Community Trigger schemes.

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