Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003

Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003

The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 is a United Kingdom Act of Parliament (citation 2003 c. 38) which almost entirely applies only to England and Wales. The Act, championed by then home secretary David Blunkett, was passed in 2003. As well as strengthening the anti-social behaviour order and Fixed Penalty Notice provisions, and banning spray paint sales to people under the age of 16, it gives local councils the power to order the removal of graffiti from private property.

It also specifically addresses truancy, crack houses, [ [ Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 Parts 1 and 1A] ] false reports of emergency, fireworks, public drunkenness and gang activity.

Main provisions of the Act

Part I of the Act ('Premises where drugs used unlawfully') enables the police to close residential premises concerned in the use, production or supply of Class A drugs and which are associated with serious nuisance or disorder to members of the public in the preceding three months. [ [ Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, s.2(3)(b)] ] ["Cumbria Constabulary" v "Wright" [ (2006) EWHC 3574 (Admin)] ; [2007] 1 WLR 1407] After such a notice has been served, within 48 hours a Magistrates' Court must consider the application, and can make a closure order under Section 2, usually known as a Crack House Closure Order. The effect of the order is that no-one may enter the premises whilst the order is in place.

Part IA of the Act ('Premises associated with persistent disorder or nuisance') which is not yet in force, is inserted by Section 118 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. Known as a Part 1A Closure Order or Antisocial Behaviour Closure Order, [Mack, J. 'Anti-social behaviour: Part 1A closure orders' "Journal of Housing Law" 2008, 11(4), 71-74] the new Sections 11A-11L of the 2003 Act permit the police to apply to Magistrates to close residential premises where they are satisfied that within the preceding three months [Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, s.11(b)(5)] the premises have been associated with "significant and persistent disorder or persistent serious nuisance to members of the public." [Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, s.11A(1)(b)] Similar to the Part 1 Order (Crack House Closure Order), it becomes an offence to remain in or re-enter the premises for the duration of the order. [Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, s.11D]

Part II ('Housing') amends housing legislation to require social housing organisations to adopt and publish policies on anti-social behaviour. It also strengthens the power of registered social landlords (RSLs) to take action against tenants who cause nuisance or annoyance to neighbours. One power is that secure tenancies can be 'demoted' by order of a County court, which makes eviction much easier. A further important provision provides a mechanism for RSLs to apply for injunctions against people causing nuisance and annoyance to people in the neighbourhood of their housing stock. Section 13 of the 2003 Act amended Part V of the Housing Act 1996 ('Conduct of Tenants'), by repealing Sections 152 and 153, and inserting new Sections 153A - 153E. Section 153A has since been substituted by the Police and Justice Act 2006, [ [ Police and Justice Act 2006, s.26] ] although this law has not yet come into force.

Part III ('Parental responsibilities') amends 'parenting orders', which were introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. These are intended to specify steps parents must take to control their children. It also introduces 'parenting contracts', which are mainly intended to cover truanting children.

Part IV ('Dispersal of groups etc') gives the police powers to disperse groups of two or more persons in any public place if their presence "has resulted, or is likely to result, in any members of the public being intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed". There is also a power for a police officer to accompany any unaccompanied person of under 16 to their home between the hours of 9pm and 6am.

Part V ('Firearms') amends the Firearms Act 1968 to make possession of an airgun or an imitation weapon in public an offence.

Part VI ('The Environment') contains a selection of miscellaneous provisions. It gives councils power to serve a closure order on premises causing public nuisance by noise. Councils also now have the power to serve a "graffiti removal notice" on the person in control (usually the owner) of any surface (usually a wall) where graffiti has been applied. There is a right of appeal to the magistrates court over such a notice, and one ground for appeal is that 'the defacement is neither detrimental to the amenity of the area nor offensive'. It makes the sale of aerosol paint to any person under 16 illegal.

Part VII ('Public Order and Trespass') amends the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 in two main ways. First, the definition of a 'rave' is amended so that only 20 people, rather than 100 must be present. Second the powers of police to move unauthorised travellers' sites are strengthened. This Part also amends the provisions of the Public Order Act 1986 concerning public assemblies. The earlier Act gave the police power to intervene if a public assembly of 20 or more people appeared likely to cause 'serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community'. This Act reduces the number to two.

Part VIII ('High Hedges') is in response to concerns about hedges, typically of Leyland Cypress plants, which can grow to 6 metres or more in height, sometimes cutting out light for neighbours. Such hedges are not controlled by town planning legislation (which normally limits the height of fences to 2 metres), and so there was formerly no way of preventing people from allowing such a hedge to grow. This part of the Act gives local authorities the power to investigate complaints made by people affected by such hedges, and, if necessary, to require their reduction. Councils can charge a fee for dealing with such complaints. Soon after implementation, some councils were charging no fee, while the highest in the country was Sevenoaks, which was charging £650.

Part IX ('Sanctions Etc') makes some changes to the mechanisms for serving and enforcing anti-social behaviour orders.

Part X ('General') limits the extent of the legislation to England and Wales only, apart from Part V.


External links

* [ Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 (Commentary)]
* [ Hedgeline: "advice and information for Hedge-Victims"]
* [ Neighbours From Hell in Britain]
* [ Full text of the Act]
* [ Home Office's "Respect" website]

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