The Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 became law earlier this year. Some of its provisions are now in force. Of particular concern to those running pubs and clubs will be the community trigger and closure provisions contained in the new legislation.
The Community Trigger provisions found in sections 104 and 105 of the Act came into force in May 2014 and introduce a right for victims of anti-social behaviour to demand action is taken, starting with a review of their case. A victim of ASB can obviously be an individual but also includes a business or a community group. Therefore if your hotel is constantly bothered by drunken rowdy behaviour from the customers of the pub next door then your business could invoke the community trigger.
When a request to use the community trigger is received the agencies in that area will need to decide if the threshold for a qualifying complaint has been met. The threshold is locally defined so will vary from area to area but the Act states a maximum threshold of 3 previous complaints of anti-social behaviour in a 6 month period. If the threshold is met then the case will be reviewed by local agencies who will decide what action needs to be taken.
In theory the community trigger could be used by a local resident who is bothered by persistent noise coming from your pub or beer garden. If the threshold is met then the complaint will be dealt with swiftly, however, such issues are already covered by legislation, particularly the Licensing Act. Just because the community trigger is activated it will not necessarily result in the review of a pub’s licence.
Community Protection Order (Closure)
Potentially of more concern to publicans and club owners is the power for police and local authorities to force a pub or club to shut down for up to 48 hours by issuing a community protection order (closure). This new power has yet to come into force and no commencement date has yet been published. The new provisions are contained in s.76 – 90 of the Act. Existing powers under the Licensing Act to require a premises licence review will remain.
The new power to issue a closure notice can only be used where police or the local authority reasonably believe that:
- the use of the premises has , or is likely soon to, result in nuisance to members of the public; or
- there is, or is likely to be, disorder in the vicinity of, and related to the premises;
and that the notice is necessary to prevent the nuisance or disorder from continuing, occurring or reoccurring.
If an order is made the police or local authority must apply to the Magistrates Court within 48 hours to for a closure order which can, if granted, last for up to 3 months with the potential to extend this to 6 months. Again the Magistrates will need to be satisfied that the use of the premises has resulted in nuisance or that there has been disorder in the vicinity related to the premises and that the order is necessary to prevent the nuisance or disorder from continuing, occurring or reoccurring. If the Magistrates were to conclude that the nuisance could be alleviated by, for example, attaching conditions to the premises licence rather than ordering closure then no order would be made.
The ethos behind the new Act is that victims should be put first. It is clear that this new provision will be able to be used in a fast and flexible manner. The police will be able to order closure of a flat or indeed a pub which is being used, for example, for serious drug dealing and which is causing nuisance to victims or disorder. The making of a Community Protection Closure Order may well be the result of an individual activating the Community trigger. However, it seems likely that the majority of anti-social behaviour issues in pubs will still be dealt with by means of a premises licence review in the first instance and that a community protection order will be reserved for more serious incidents or used as a last resort. We will know more once the provisions come into force.
Although the provisions are not yet in force the Government has issued statutory guidance for frontline professionals which includes details on setting the locally defined threshold.
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.