Criminal Behaviour Orders are issued by a criminal court to people convicted of an offence, to prevent them from engaging in anti-social behaviour. In most cases the applicant for the criminal behaviour order will be the Crown Prosecution Service, though this can be at the request of the local council. A breach of this order is a criminal offence and must be proved to a criminal standard of proof, which is beyond reasonable doubt. As with Civil injunctions, Criminal Behaviour Orders have the scope to specify positive requirements, to focus on long-term solutions. Unlike the old Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, there is no longer a need to prove “necessity” to issue an order.
Between January and December 2014 Islington experienced a 4 per cent increase in overall ‘total notifiable offences’ compared to the previous 12 months. Drug dealing, moped theft and moped-enabled crimes, including snatch mobile phone theft, often committed by young people, all appeared to involve the same groups of offenders. The challenge was identifying those responsible and bringing about a successful prosecution. Three main gangs were identified as driving a significant proportion of this criminality.
One gang had more than 25 known members, most of whom lived and offended in the local vicinity across the west of Islington. Their offending included drug dealing, anti-social behaviour (ASB), moped theft, moped enabled snatches, robbery, low level violence against local residents, smash and grabs, serious weapon enabled violence against rival gangs, burglary.
Where convictions were secured, many offenders received minimal sentences and soon returned to committing crimes with the same groups of associates. Residents reported concerns about undesirable individuals hanging around and drug dealing on estates and parks frequented by families with young children which was leaving them feeling concerned for their safety. Partners reported fears that older individuals were influencing younger ones and encouraging them to get involved in drug-related criminal activity. The challenge was to bring about a more sustainable solution.
A drugs operation known as Operation Flashheart was set up by Islington Police Gang’s Unit to tackle Class A drug supply. This ran between September and December 2014 and involved undercover police officers test purchasing drugs from dealers operating in residential areas in different parts of Islington. Police officers were equipped with technical equipment capable of audio and visual recordings. They were able to buy Class A drugs including crack cocaine and heroin and the DNA analysis of the drugs packaging linked suspects to the offences. In total there were 30 separate incidents of drug dealing by the group.
Prosecutions for drug offences were pursued against 10 offenders aged between 16 and 45. All were convicted of drug offences with the majority receiving custodial sentences. Criminal Behaviour Orders were also secured to ban them from locations where they committed their crimes, impose restrictions on carrying mobile phones not registered to them and prevent them from meeting with their criminal associates in public places.
The aim was to disrupt their offending behaviour upon release from custody and bring respite to residents in the area. For those looking to break out of a criminal lifestyle the CBOs meant they could legitimately claim they were unable to associate with offenders or return to the offending location.
Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) were introduced in October 2014 under the ASB, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and replaced post-conviction Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs).
They can be issued by any criminal court against a person who has been convicted of an offence with the aim of tackling the most persistently anti-social individuals who are also engaged in criminal activity.
The test is that:
The court is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the offender has engaged in behaviour that has caused or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to any person;
- The court considers that making the order will help prevent the offender from engaging in such behaviour.
There are two dedicated police officers based in Islington’s Community Safety Partnership Unit who provide the police lead on ASB interventions. They are experienced officers who work closely with the council and other partners to make full use of the range of tools and powers available. They apply learning gained through use of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), which includes putting good quality cases together with stated Case Law and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidelines when drawing up prohibitions from previous ASBO cases.
The ASB police officers worked closely with the Gangs Unit to research the individuals coming to notice as part of this operation. They liaised with other agencies following Islington’s partnership CBO/injunction procedure drawn up in preparation for the introduction of the new ASB powers in conjunction with partners including Children’s Social Care, the Youth Offending Service, Police and Housing. There is a statutory requirement to consult the Youth Offending Service where young people under 18 are involved. Existing YOS orders were taken into account and prohibitions tailored that were appropriate, proportionate and relevant with the support of CPS ASBO prohibition guidelines. Positive conditions were considered but not deemed appropriate on this occasion as offenders were already linked into appropriate support services. The circumstances of each offender had to be considered when drawing up the exclusion map with each tailored to the individual, as some lived within the location or had family members living there. Four individuals were residents from neighbouring boroughs in Hackney and Enfield and appropriate consultation had to take place with Police and YOS Officers in those boroughs.
Court hearings related to the prosecutions took place in three different courts over a 20 week period at Highbury Corner Youth Court, Stratford Youth Court and Blackfriars Crown Court. The evidence presented was such that offenders pleaded guilty and cases did not need to go to trial, however officers still had to keep track of multiple court appearances to ensure that the CBO applications were taken into account at the sentencing stage.
Ten male offenders aged between 16 and 45 were convicted of Class A drugs offences. They all received custodial sentences and were given three-year CBOs. The results were publicised to inform residents and partners of action taken and to provide reassurance that action will be taken to tackle drug dealing. Publicity also seeks to act as a deterrent to others involved in offending behaviour. Information was also shared in line with Islington’s information sharing protocol with appropriate landlords to enable them to consider whether tenancy action was appropriate. While the majority are still in custody and the full impact of the CBO restrictions cannot be measured there has been a reduction in gang related offending in this location.
Costs involved include officer time in preparation of cases and court appearances.