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Anti-social behaviour powers and young adults: How dispersal powers, community protection notices and public spaces protection orders are used to sanction young adults

The Data

Authors: Helen Mills and Matt Ford

This data briefing aims to identify how three key anti-social behaviour powers are being used to sanction young adults (18-25 year olds) in England and Wales and to invite further discussion about their implications.

It focuses on identifying the most comprehensive picture possible about the numbers of young adults sanctioned in relation to three anti-social behaviour powers:

Dispersal Power

A police-only power to exclude individuals from a specified area for up to 48 hours.

Community Protection Notice (CPN)

Enables councils, the police and housing providers to give notices to individuals and businesses prohibiting them from doing, and / or requiring them to do, certain things.

Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO)

Allows local councils to prohibit or require specific behaviours in public places.

The briefing brings together data for the first time about young adults and these anti-social behaviour (ASB) tools. Compiling this data addresses an area of considerable uncertainty.

Very little information is in the public domain about ASB powers; how they are used, who is being sanctioned by them, or what the outcomes are of using them. There is no centralised data collection about their use and there is significant local discretion regarding when and how they might be applied.

The practices the data in this briefing refers to are part of new and evolving approaches. The tools described here have their origins in ASB strategies that have been in operation for several decades. However, the overhaul of the ASB framework in 2014 created new mechanisms for the – potentially much more extensive – use of ASB responses by councils, housing providers and the police.

This data briefing covers three of the six powers created in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

In addition, young adults have been established as a group for whom there are specific needs. The Transition to Adulthood Alliance has given attention to how prisons, probation, courts and policing could best respond to these needs. However, to our knowledge, young adults have not been the subject of research regarding ASB powers. Age considerations in ASB, at least in terms of the research literature, have tended to focus on under 16 year olds.

ASB has also attracted controversy. For some, ASB legislation has created important tools which can legitimately make public spaces places everyone can enjoy. Others have been critical about the potentially arbitrary nature of an ASB enforcement approach; that its use represents a failure to address fundamental social problems, and may further marginalise vulnerable groups.

This briefing is not intended to promote the greater use of ASB powers. Nor have we set out to show the use of these powers is necessarily unjustified. Instead we hope to offer rigorous, objective information and critical analysis about the way these powers have been used since important changes in their governance. We hope this is a useful contribution to the ongoing debate about ASB.