INJUNCTIONS AND COMMITTALS
I recently welcomed Craig Freeman to be my guest on my podcast (Janine Green ASB Chats…). Craig is an experienced ASB practitioner who now heads up Frontline Resolution, a training and consultancy business, with particular expertise in relation to the use of the ASB Injunction.
One of the areas that I was keen to explore with Craig was the relationship between the owner of an injunction (the applicant) and local policing teams. As ASB practitioners, we know that successful use of the injunction relies a great deal on support being provided by Police colleagues: we may need information from them to use as evidence to support the proceedings, an officer to assist in serving the order and an arrest if the order is breached.
Whilst many of us have excellent relationships with our local Police teams, there are undoubtedly still issues with partnership working. This can arise for a number of reasons: the reduction or even the dismantling of neighbourhood policing, lack of time and resources, conflicting priorities, a lack of understanding of what the injunction is, being let down by housing teams in the past, etc.
Craig and I discussed a number of ways in which some of these challenges can be overcome. I am extremely grateful to him for agreeing to co-author this blog post, to share some of his expert tips and advice with you.
1. Working with partners to raise awareness of the injunctions
Whilst the Police do have the legal recourse to use the Injunction, in reality, the likelihood of this still remains low. This is understandable: when the legislation came into force, the Police were given no training, no practical guidance and no additional budget for this purpose. The difference between civil law and criminal law is significant, with different rules, statement formats, evidential requirements, etc.
ASB Teams can however offer to help plug some of this knowledge gap through providing briefings to the Police on civil powers, or inviting them to attend any training sessions arranged. If an ASB officer is considering an injunction, there is value in spending some time with the relevant police officer, explaining the process and purpose in detail.
Craig encouraged an early, pre-arranged meeting with a senior-ranking officer… a decision-maker, explaining to that officer that injunctions are an important part of the toolkit and the police are needed to ensure swift enforcement of the power. In many instances, the police and the applicant will have mutual interest in the case and the police may view the applicant as being a useful and additional resource. Of course, in reality, it goes beyond this. The applicant – a housing association, for example – will have a contractual agreement with its tenants to ensure anti-social behaviour is tackled should it exist. A power of arrest is no longer an additional power for the police to take action, it is a mutual benefit to all parties: the applicant, the police, the affected community and most importantly, the victim.
For a healthy partnership, a number of factors need to be overcome. Who do the police call out of hours? Unfortunately, offenders don’t just offend between 9am and 5pm. Who coordinates the arrest? The applicant or the police? Who has the power to authorise an arrest attempt? Are information sharing practices in place, and if so, do we truly understand the protocol? Obtaining police documents, such as PNCs and statements?
If you’re starting out, or wish to review your processes, speak to the relevant senior-ranking officer, either directly or with the support of your own manager. A superintendent, or an inspector, for example. Get the backing from the top and it won’t fizzle out.
2. Ensuring expectations are managed
Injunctions can be a very effective means of dealing with ASB and other criminality. That said, any ASB practitioner knows that the process can sometimes be frustrating with requests for additional evidence from legal teams, lengthy waits for Court hearings, adjournments etc.
It is important to explain to police colleagues realistic timescales and reasons for any delays, to ensure that they stay committed to the action and don’t start to lose faith. Likewise, you can explain to your police colleagues the benefits of this power….. swift, robust enforcement, with potentially quicker sentencing. Every breach is different, but the pros should easily outweigh the cons.
It can also be useful to share the sentencing guidelines so partners have an understanding of how breaches will be dealt with and the likely (and possible) sanctions.
3. Reducing the burden on the Police
Working in ASB is a demanding and pressured role, with time and capacity limited. This is true for all community safety partners and the Police are no exception. Many forces have seen a reduction in police numbers, particularly in neighbourhood police teams, and the time available to support civil actions is likely to be limited.
Any police officer will greatly appreciate efforts to reduce impact on their time. Actions that an ASB officer can take to do this include:
• Investigate the breach and begin the process of evidence gathering
• Carry out house to house enquiries
• Obtain statements from witnesses
• Notify the court and explain to the custody/arresting officer this will be done by you.
• Base yourself at the police statement during the process; be on hand to help!
• Be ready out of hours for any calls that come in. Be prepared to help and advise. It might be that the arresting officer has never dealt with a breach before.
• If the case is being transferred and re-allocated to another officer (be wary of any shift changes!), put your mobile number on the paperwork so the new officer knows to call you. They know who to notify when the prisoner is produced. Even consider putting your contact details behind the custody desk. It goes a long way.
4. Maximising the strength of your case
Some people need to see the value of something before they can get behind an idea. The best way to encourage support from partners is to have real examples of where the injunction has worked well to resolve an issue.
Housing and ASB teams should therefore work to ensure that the case files they put together for injunctions are as strong as possible. This will help to secure the best possible orders, helping partners to see the benefit for them in supporting future applications.
5. Having a clear process for dealing with breaches of injunction
An area of challenge with the Injunction often relates to breaches of injunction, particularly where there is a power of arrest attached to the breached condition. If not managed properly many things can be wrong: response officers may deal with the breach and not understand what the injunction is, the housing or ASB team may not have provided police with an out of hours contact, arrests may occur outside of office hours, the police may believe they have to charge the respondent with a criminal offence and so on.
All of the above can lead to wasted time and resource, which in turn will make it a challenge to convince police to support further injunction applications.
The housing/ASB team can work to reduce the chance of the above by:
• Be clear of what the conduct is, and what the evidence is in relation to that conduct. Remember that the standard of proof is to criminal standard and ensure you seek evidence to satisfy this.
• Designate a person within your organisation as a SPOC for dealing with all breaches. This may require an out-of-hours service or overtime budget, but the benefits are huge. The last thing you, the police or the court will want is a prisoner being produced with no paperwork and with little idea as to why he/she is there for.
• Provide a guidance note or procedure for the custody desk to follow. Notably, a weekend breach may result in a different procedure being followed.
We hope the above information has been of use. Further details of the training that Craig provides in relation to injunctions and committal proceedings can be found on his website: https://www.frontlineresolution.co.uk/
Janine Green & Craig Freeman