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Antisocial Behaviour

Volume 556: debated on Monday 7 January 2013

We have just published a draft Bill setting out measures to put victims at the heart of the response to antisocial behaviour. They include the community trigger, which will ensure agencies take persistent problems seriously; the community remedy, giving victims a say in the punishment of offenders out of court; and, overall, faster, more effective powers so that front-line professionals can better protect the public.

Between June 2011 and June 2012, more than 2.5 million incidents of antisocial behaviour were recorded in England and Wales. Under Labour, half the people who breached antisocial behaviour orders went to jail. Why is the Minister replacing Labour’s tough sentencing with much weaker, last-resort injunctions, such as activity orders and supervision requirements, and demanding that local authorities pay for them?

The short answer is that we are replacing them so that we can have more effective measures in place. I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to a recent quotation from the Labour Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee:

“I very much welcome the Government’s decision to overhaul the statutory framework for tackling anti-social behaviour. We must ensure that the new Act is more robust than the original ASBO legislation, which has been amended every year since it was passed in 1998.”

The complacency of Ministers in this area and the fact that it has taken two and a half years to get to this point offer no reassurance to those who face daily fear and intimidation because of antisocial behaviour. Those in my community whose lives are blighted by this want to know why Ministers appear not to be on their side and are instead seeking to weaken the powers available to the police to tackle antisocial behaviour.

Let me make two brief points. First, we take antisocial behaviour extremely seriously. I think that MPs of all parties see the terrible effect that antisocial behaviour has on decent, law-abiding citizens and we want to help them. Secondly, the measures are designed to be quicker and more effective than those previously in place. If they were not going to achieve that objective, we would not be bringing them forward.

The Minister has given warm words about his desire to tackle antisocial behaviour, but why is it that my constituents and people up and down the country who suffer antisocial behaviour will now get no action unless they complain three times, not just once?

The hon. Lady misunderstands the intention of the policy. Our hope is that the police and other authorities will respond instantly when concerns are raised about antisocial behaviour. The problem in the past has been when the same concern has been raised repeatedly and no response has been forthcoming. What we are putting in place is a defined measure to make sure that that no longer happens.

The latest figures show that in North West Leicestershire 92% of people who complained about antisocial behaviour were at least satisfied with the service they received from the police. Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating Leicestershire police force on the work it is doing in combating antisocial behaviour?

I do congratulate Leicestershire police force. It is coming up to eight years that I have been a Member of Parliament and I observe that my own police force in Avon and Somerset is making a more concerted effort—I am sure that this is true generally—to deal with antisocial behaviour and to respond quickly when concerns are raised. We want to make that service even better across all police forces in the future.

16. We all know that, often, where Enfield leads other areas of the country follow. Certainly, lessons will be learned from Enfield, where there has been a 50% reduction in antisocial behaviour as well as in serious violence in key gang areas as a result of hard-hitting call-ins. That has been recognised recently, not least by the Minister when he awarded the Tilley national award to Enfield for its good progress. (135595)

I have fond memories of Enfield, Southgate from when I stood, unsuccessfully, in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. That gave me extra reason to be pleased to present the Tilley award to Enfield, which was fitting recognition for all the hard work that has taken place in his borough.

Was the Minister as pleased as I was to read in The Daily Telegraph on 3 December 2012 the following quote from a Government Minister:

“New measures are planned to cut the number of criminals who carry knives”?

Is this a welcome sign that we now have a Government who are willing to make the punishment fit the crime?

Knife crime is, of course, of great concern to communities across the country, because its impact can be devastating for victims and their families. We are working hard to try to reduce the number of knives, including specific measures to that effect.

The community trigger has been described as a new and improved way to deal with repeat complaints of antisocial behaviour. Brighton and Hove is one of the pilot areas, and in the first quarter of its pilot there were more than 7,000 recorded incidents of antisocial behaviour. During that same period, the community trigger was successfully triggered just four times. Is that rate a success?

It is difficult to respond definitively because absolute success would mean never having to use the trigger at all. That would constitute a very responsive set of authorities. This is a serious measure and I am sure that Members from all parts of the House approve of it. We must all be familiar with people in our constituencies who have raised a concern repeatedly, but who do not feel that it has been taken sufficiently seriously and want greater action to be taken. We want to empower them to ensure that their lives are no longer blighted by antisocial behaviour.