Anti-Social Families Face Eviction In 48 Hours
John Reid has announced new powers to evict people from their properties within 48 hours for anti-social behaviour as part of the Government’s crackdown on loutish behaviour. The Home Secretary said the “common sense” policies would aim to speed up the justice system, in some cases bypassing the need to go to court. Speaking in Bristol he said that justice should be swift and “work for the victims of crime, not against them”.
Mr Reid outlined two new proposals in the consultation paper Strengthening Powers to Tackle Anti-Social Behaviour, which would give police powers to close down rowdy or nuisance properties and impose on-the-spot fines for youngsters who breach Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (ABCs).
The new eviction powers, which would apply to privately-owned or rented accommodation, are based on existing measures which allow police to close crack dens within 48 hours. These measures have been used effectively by police in Bristol who have closed 52 crack houses closed between January 2004 and September 2006, according to figures by the Bristol Anti-Social Behaviour Team.
Mr Reid said: “I want to give the police powers to close down places which are the bane of a community. Perhaps it’s a site used for raves or a house used as a brothel which draws people in at all times of the night and day. Shutting them down would be a last resort. But it could be done in 48-hours. I think it is fair that where there is persistently excessive noise and rowdy behaviour or where residents intimidate and threaten their neighbours around the clock, the consequences are clear and tough.”
Mr Reid also announced plans to attach a suspended fine to ABCs, a voluntary agreement used to keep unruly children under control, which would be payable if the agreement was breached. It would involve an instant fine of £80 which could be suspended for up to six months, the maximum length of an ABC, and scrapped if adhered to.
Parents would be liable to pay the fine for their child, which the Home Office said would give parents an incentive to ensure their children were well behaved.
Mr Reid said: “The problem we face is what I call the justice shortfall. That is, the difference between what you and I think is justice, and what a lawyer or legal academic might think it is. My kind of justice is swift, effective and matches the crime. To me, justice should work for the victims of crime, not against them. I suspect that’s probably your idea of justice too. But too often the perception isn’t matched by the reality. I’m not arguing against people having a fair hearing. But…having a fair hearing doesn’t always mean having your day in court, although there will be the option of a court hearing,” he said.
“It’s common sense to me that if we can deliver swifter justice for a large number of community offences, then we can free up time in the courts for more serious crimes. “We must remember that victims – be they individuals or communities – come before perpetrators in the pecking order.”
David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: “John Reid talks about putting the victims first. Yet after ten years of Labour we have seen a real failure to enforce anti-social behaviour laws, resulting in communities being blighted and lives being made a misery. What the public expect of a Government is active enforcement of laws already in place, not more grandstanding rhetoric designed to generate headlines.”