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Putting Victims First

Volume 545: debated on Tuesday 22 May 2012

I am later today publishing “Putting victims first — more effective responses to anti-social behaviour”. It sets out the Government’s plans to deliver on the commitment to introduce mote effective measures to tackle anti-social behaviour, and puts them in the wider context of the reforms to the policing and criminal justice landscape and work to turn round the lives of the most troubled families.

The term “anti-social behaviour” masks a range of nuisance, disorder and crime which affects people’s lives on a daily basis: from vandalism and graffiti; to drunk or rowdy behaviour in public; to intimidation and harassment. All have huge impacts on the lives of millions of people in this country. None is acceptable.

Many police forces, local authorities and social landlords are working hard to deal with these problems. However, too often, the harm that anti-social behaviour causes, particularly when it is persistently targeted at the most vulnerable people in our society, is overlooked. At the heart of our new approach is a fundamental shift towards focusing on the needs of victims, rather than the type of behaviour.

We know what victims of anti-social behaviour want. First and foremost they want the behaviour to stop, and the perpetrators to be punished for what they have done. They want the authorities to take their problem seriously, to understand the impact on their lives and to protect them from further harm. They want the issue dealt with swiftly and they do not want it to happen again.

The mistake of the past was to think that the Government could tackle anti-social behaviour themselves. However, this is a fundamentally local problem that looks and feels different in every area and to every victim. Local agencies should respond to the priorities of the communities they serve, not to those imposed from Whitehall. From November this year, directly elected police and crime commissioners will be a powerful new voice for local people, able to push local priorities to prevent anti-social behaviour from being relegated to a “second-tier” issue.

The Government do, however, have a crucial role in supporting local areas. We will do that by:

Focusing the response to anti-social behaviour on the needs of victims—helping agencies to identify and support people at high risk of harm, giving frontline professionals more freedom to do what they know works, and improving our understanding of the experiences of victims;

Empowering communities to get involved in tackling anti-social behaviour—including by giving victims and communities the power to ensure action is taken to deal with persistent anti-social behaviour through a new community trigger, and making it easier for communities to demonstrate in court the harm they are suffering;

Ensuring professionals are able to protect the public quickly—giving them faster, more effective formal powers, and speeding up the eviction process for the most anti-social tenants, in response to recent consultations by the Home Office and Department for Communities and Local Government; and

Focusing on long term solutions—by addressing the underlying issues that drive anti-social behaviour, such as binge drinking, drug use, mental health issues, troubled family backgrounds and irresponsible dog ownership.

It is vital that those who will be affected by these changes, from the professionals who will use the new powers, to victims seeking protection from targeted abuse, can continue to shape the reforms so that we get them right first time. We will therefore publish a draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny before introducing legislation.

Copies of “Putting victims first” will be available in the Vote Office.