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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 07/12/2004
Policy Statement on Anti-Social Behaviour and Harassment for Tenants of Waverley Borough Council (Revised September 2004)



ANNEXE 1

POLICY STATEMENT ON ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR AND HARASSMENT FOR TENANTS OF WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL (REVISED SEPTEMBER 2004)

1. Tenants, Officers and Councillors believe that tenants and their neighbours should treat others with respect and consideration, with tolerance for each other and different lifestyles.

2. Antisocial behaviour is unreasonable behaviour that interferes with people’s lawful rights to peaceful use and enjoyment of their life, home and community. (Appendix 1)

3. Harassment is persecution or intimidation of a person or group of people for any reason. (Appendix 1)

4. This policy describes the principles and approach the Council as landlord will take in regard to Council tenants suffering from or committing anti social behaviour or harassment.

5. This policy supports the Council’s commitment alongside it’s partners in Health, Police and Surrey County Council to the Community Safety Strategy for Waverley with the aims of reducing crime and the fear of crime; improving safety in public areas; and reducing substance misuse.

6. The Council will not tolerate anti-social behaviour towards staff and will apply this policy and associated procedures to the protection of staff and deal robustly with the alleged perpetrator.

7. The Council will support their tenants lawful rights and responsibilities contained in sections 25 to 32 of the tenancy agreement to the peaceful and secure enjoyment of their homes and community by:-

taking action to discourage and prevent anti social behaviour and harassment responding to complaints about anti social behaviour and harassment quickly and in an effective, efficient, sensitive and consistent manner offering support to the victim or victims and taking action against those responsible taking special measures where nuisance and harassment involves vulnerable people including domestic violence taking special measures where anti social behaviour or harassment is of a racial or related nature working in multi agency partnership with the Community Incident Action Group (CIAG) dealing robustly with post eviction and other rehousing applications

Taking action to discourage and prevent anti social behaviour and harassment

8. Through early information and advice encourage and help tenants to solve differences themselves, wherever possible. This is the first step to solving a problem because often people don’t realise they are causing a nuisance until they are told how it affects their neighbour.

9. Tenants and neighbours with disputes will be encouraged to use Waverley Community Mediation Service at an early stage to help the people involved to reach an agreement that satisfies everyone.

10. At new tenancy and follow up interviews tenants will be informed of their rights and responsibilities as tenants including the Council’s anti social behaviour and harassment policy and the consequences for them as a tenant if they or their family or visitors carry out such behaviour.

11. There will be full use of the media in addition to Waverley Homes, the Council’s newsletter for tenants which will publicise the Council’s actions including the loss of their homes against tenants or their families or visitors committing anti social behaviour or harassing their neighbours.

12. The provision of lighting, door entry systems and other physical adaptations or facilities that reduce the potential for anti social behaviour or harassment.

13. To provide tenants with information, advice and support on how to reduce the impact of noise upon their neighbours and develop and support activities which foster community relations.

14. To provide a support service for anti social individuals or families to prevent such behaviour continuing.

15. To involve the Council’s Environmental Health Services section in dealing with noise nuisance and the control of animals at an early stage. The Housing department will support prosecution of tenants or their neighbours under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Responding to complaints about anti social behaviour and harassment quickly and in an effective, efficient, sensitive and consistent manner

16. Tenants will have clear information and guidelines for reporting anti social behaviour and harassment. The procedures will include a timetable of response times for Officers to deal with complaints about anti social behaviour and harassment.

17. There will be a monitoring system that can review the progress and actions in each case with an annual report to the Tenants’ Panel, tenants and the Council of the activity and outcomes over the year.

18. Officers will have regular training on the legislation and case law, procedures, standard types of letters to use and how to deal in an efficient, sensitive and consistent manner with all their cases. Procedures and paperwork will be regularly reviewed to ensure that it is straightforward to use and helps both complainants/witnesses and front line officers.

Offering support to the victim/s and taking action against those responsible

19. Officers will fully explain to tenants and neighbours the importance of gathering the evidence about anti social behaviour and harassment and how to complete diaries that record the dates, times of such behaviour and its effect on the victims. The officers can keep the identity of the complainant confidential when there is a danger to the complainant from the alleged perpetrator. This will be fully discussed in each case.

20. The Council recognises that anti social behaviour and harassment can make tenants feel very vulnerable and will work with other agencies to support and protect them. Where there is a threat of violence officers will inform the police immediately and provide a place of safety if required.

21. At the appropriate time (and exercising discretion to protect any victim), the alleged perpetrator will be given an opportunity to give their version of the events in question.

22. If there is no evidence of anti social behaviour and harassment the officer will inform the alleged victim and offer recourse to the mediation service if appropriate.

23. If on completion of the investigation the officer has sufficient evidence of the alleged behaviour they will talk to the alleged perpetrator to tell them to stop the anti social behaviour or harassment. This visit will be followed up by writing to the alleged perpetrator.

24. If the behaviour continues the officer will visit again seeking agreement with the perpetrator and their family not to carry out certain identifiable acts, which can be construed as anti-social behaviour. Where appropriate the Council may sign up the tenant or individual members of their family to an Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC).

25. The tenant will be informed that further such behaviour will lead to the commencement of possession proceedings and which may lead to the loss of their home of their home.

26. If the anti social behaviour or harassment continues the Council will serve a Notice Seeking Possession (NSP) or apply to the Court for Demotion Order because of anti-social behaviour for secure tenants or a Notice to Quit (NTQ) for licensees (this could lead to the tenant or licensee losing their home).

27. If the anti social behaviour does not cease the Council will seek a Court date for a possession hearing. The Council will present the possession case in Court fully and effectively to create the best possible chance of gaining possession of the property.

28. In very serious cases of anti social behaviour and harassment, where there is intimidation and violence or the threat of violence the Council will employ professional witnesses if the Court proceedings can only take place with such evidence.

29. Where the Council has the power to do so, it will give serious consideration to applying for an injunction, where witnesses are likely to be intimidated and where the nuisance is serious and unlikely to cease with the commencement of proceedings. An injunction to stop such behaviour or prevent the alleged perpetrator returning to the area can be applied for with the Notice Seeking Possession (NSP) for secure tenants or a Notice to Quit (NTQ) for licensees. The Court can attach a power of arrest where there is violence or threats of violence.

30. If the Court grants an outright order for possession and the tenant does not leave the Council will obtain a bailiffs warrant to take possession of the property.

31. Where the Court grants a suspended possession order the Council will continue to monitor the situation. Local tenants and residents will be supported if they continue to keep diaries of events and where there is a breach of the suspended possession order the Council will apply to Court for a warrant of execution of the order, followed up by a bailiffs warrant if required.

32. When a Demoted Order is granted the Council will continue to monitor the situation. Local tenants and residents will be supported if they continue to keep diaries of events and where there is a breach of the suspended possession order the Council will apply to Court for a warrant of execution of the order, followed up by a bailiffs warrant if required. The Council will offer support to the individual or family to modify their behaviour.

Taking special measures where anti social behaviour or harassment involves vulnerable people

33. The procedures address the issues of people with the following categories of vulnerability:-

people with mental health problems
eccentric people
people at risk through unsanitary living conditions
people with disabilities
people with drug or alcohol dependency
young people leaving care
children at risk
people with personality disorders
people suffering domestic violence

34. If these tenants are not properly assessed and assisted by the appropriate professional service, any attempt at taking legal action against them may well fail because they are seen to be in need of support. Officers will make the appropriate referral to other agencies and may refer such cases to the Community Incident Action Group (CIAG)

Taking special measures where anti social behaviour or harassment is of a racial or related nature

35. Under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2002, the Council has placed upon it a general and specific statutory duties related to the promotion of racial equality. Although at present no other similar statutory duty exists, the Council’s ‘Equal Opportunities in Service Delivery’ policy identifies its intention in addition to race and ethnic origin to avoid unfair treatment on the grounds of:-

gender
disability
age
sexual orientation
marital status
political or religious beliefs

36. Officers will pay special attention to cases of anti social behaviour or harassment that appear to contravene its policy on Equal Opportunities in Service Delivery. Officers will involve other relevant agencies as necessary in resolving such incidents and may refer them to the Community Incident Action Group (CIAG) or, in extreme cases of racial harassment direct to the police.

Working in multi agency partnership with the Community Incident Action Group (CIAG)

37. The multi agency Community Incident Action Group (CIAG) has been set up locally through the Crime and Disorder Strategy to enable partnership working where an individual or location creates a significant risk to public safety or public disorder, or a nomination is considered vulnerable and referral to CIAG can reduce the risk. Waverley Borough Council is a signed up partner to this group.

38. The procedures on anti social behaviour and harassment recognise the importance of early action on complaints involving children, to prevent escalation to more serious problems. If early intervention of talking to the children and with the parents is unsuccessful the case will be referred to the multi agency Community Incident Action Group (CIAG).

39. There are a variety of actions that the different agencies can carry out in parallel in certain cases and these can be coordinated by the CIAG. For example the Housing department and the local police can negotiate an agreed acceptable behaviour contract (ABC) with a child over 10 years old and their parent with the sanctions of proceeding to demotion of tenancy, possession proceedings or an Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) if the behaviour does not improve.

40. Where the perpetrator is an owner occupier, through the CIAG the acceptable behaviour contract (ABC) can be used with the potential sanction of an Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBO).

Dealing robustly with post eviction and other rehousing applications

41. The Council will seek to challenge known perpetrators of nuisance if they seek to gain access to Council accommodation either as a tenant in their own right or as part of a larger moving group

42. The Council may not accept people onto the Housing Needs Register if they have a proven history of anti social behaviour or harassment, although every case will be considered on its own merits.

43. Great care will be taken to keep the information that led to an eviction on a database that can be easily followed up. Such information will be used by the Council in considering whether to accept the application onto the housing register and will be available for investigations under the Homelessness Act 1996 either locally or elsewhere. This will be carried out with due regard for the Data Protection Act 1998 and Human Rights Act, to ensure that information is only accessible to and provided to, those who have a legitimate need for it.

44. Waverley Borough Council recognises its obligations with regard to the maintenance of its statutory housing register and the establishment of categories of people who will not be allowed onto that register and has a separate policy statement that addresses these obligations.

45. Through its enabling role the Council will seek to provide supported accommodation that addresses the problems of people who are perpetrators of anti social behaviour or harassment.

Data Protection and Information exchange

46. The Council will ensure that any data relating to alleged perpetrators and victims will be kept in a secure environment and will only be shared with other agencies through the Information Sharing Protocol which relates to individual information and confidential discussion of either individuals, properties or area under the protocols of the Community Incident Action Group and Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).

47. The Council will gather evidence from the other agencies using these protocols to determine what action to take against the perpetrators of anti-social behaviour and harassment as outlined in the policy of the Council.

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