Last week the Government introduced the new Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan. The plan recognises that it is unacceptable to live in fear of intimidation or fear of walking alone at night and that Town centres are becoming places that people don’t want to be. The action plan also highlights that over half of us think that anti-social behaviour is not being treated seriously enough.
Link to Action Plan: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/anti-social-behaviour-action-plan/anti-social-behaviour-action-plan
The plan attempts to lay out a way of “treating anti-social behaviour with the urgency it deserves”. One new tactic is the concept of “Immediate Justice” – getting those individuals engaging in ant-social behaviour to ‘make good’ for the damage that they have caused.
The idea is that, within 48 hours, perpetrators will be enlisted on projects such as:
- Cleaning Police cars
- Litter picking
- Cleaning graffiti
I applaud the efforts of the plan, and I think the public supports efforts to tackle crime quickly and locally. However, I wonder what the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and Police Forces in the ten areas being considered, are planning to implement this?
We know that the Police are overstretched, and some forces have already highlighted the burden of responding to mental health calls (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-64891572). Do they have the capacity to be arranging Immediate Justice Projects with such quick turnarounds?
Making people clean Police cars makes sense as a punishment (it almost seems old fashioned) but who buys the buckets and soap? Who stands by and makes sure our perpetrator attends and what’s the follow up if they don’t? Who ensures that two rival gang members are not sent to the same project and a risky situation ends up being escalated?
The Police already have the power to request somebody “to undertake unpaid work not exceeding 20 hours” when issuing Conditional Cautions. The fact that this isn’t often used, is probably due to the issues outlined above. (https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/conditional-cautioning-adults-dpp-guidance – see annex B).
Moreover, this type of punishment is classed as reparative, not rehabilitative. It’s not an intervention aimed at stopping this person committing an act of anti-social behaviour again. If reparative conditions are applied, they should be accompanied by rehabilitative programmes such as referrals to partners such as Band of Brothers (see Conroy’s excellent presentation here: https://youtu.be/e-LOvt_ITto)
Make Time Count experienced these challenges first hand when working with the London Probation service and their excellent Unpaid Work Teams. We saw the work that goes into maintaining 100s of projects across the Capital – especially in getting people to turn up and engage with what they were tasked with doing. We also saw the benefits that these projects can have for the community and for those involved.
However, the projects do not run themselves. They need significant coordination and dedicated trained supervisors to run the sessions.
For the PCCs embarking on implementing this new legislation, we recommend looking at the Probation model; can lessons be learnt? Can resources be shared? We also think it would be beneficial to consider what else is going on in the Forces around Out of Court Disposals.
We also recommend looking at technology solutions to help officers refer users to interventions, track compliance and engagement, and work directly with the community.
Good luck, may the community be with you!