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The Government has been consulting on a number of proposals to reform the tools available to deal with anti-social behaviour. One of the proposals which has attracted some press attention is the “Community Trigger”. The consultation paper, published in February 2011, proposed that there should be a new duty on police, local authorities and some other partners to take action to deal with persistent anti social behaviour. Much press attention focused on the criteria “envisaged” by the Green Paper:

• that five individuals from five different households had complained about the same issue and no issue had been taken; or

• if the behaviour had been reported the authorities by an individual at least three times”.

Malicious complaints could be rejected.

However, the Green Paper went on to say that there would be “minimal central prescription over how areas operate the trigger”.

The White Paper, published in May 2012, announced that the legislation would be introduced initially in the form of a draft bill. This would not prescribe exactly how local areas should implement the trigger, and the “criteria” (such as the number of complaints which would lead to action) would be left to local discretion. However, the trigger would be piloted in Manchester using the criteria envisaged in the Green Paper. Local authorities would be required to decide and publish the thresholds, criteria, process and reporting mechanism they proposed to use locally.

The White Paper did indicate that, under the Government’s final proposals:

• Local authorities, police and specified health bodies would have a “high level” duty to deal jointly with complaints raised by the community regarding anti-social behaviour where no action had been taken;

• Authorities would be able to reject vexatious or malicious complaints;

• Anti-social behaviour would be defined as causing “harassment, alarm or distress” to members of the public (the same as is used for Anti-social Behaviour Orders) not, for example, “nuisance or annoyance”;

• Third parties (in the case of vulnerable victims) and businesses would be able to initiate the trigger as well as individual members of the public.

The Labour Government legislated for a “Community Call for Action” in 2006, which initially was going to involve both a statutory right for members of the public who complained to a councillor to have that councillor respond. Members of the public would also have had a right to refer the matter to the authority’s executive if the councillor declined to refer it to the council’s crime and disorder committee. However, this was amended before it came into force to bring it into line with a more general Community (or Councillor) Call for Action brought in by the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. Under this regime, all councillors are empowered to refer local government matters and local crime and disorder matters for consideration by the relevant overview and scrutiny committees of their local authorities.

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