Closure powers allow the local authority or police to quickly close premises which are being used, or likely to be used, to commit nuisance or disorder. This power can be used for up to 48 hours out of court and is single power that is intended to cover a wide range of behaviours in a quick and flexible way. This replaces specific closure powers noise, drugs, persistent disorder or licensed premises. A breach of a closure notice or closure order is a criminal offence.
In early 2014 Lambeth Council and Lambeth police started receiving complaints of nuisance and anti-social behaviour emanating from premises that appeared to be operating as a brothel, on a private estate in Streatham. After initial investigations and discussions with the landlord’s managing agent, the tenants were evicted and the complaints ceased, until they started up again a few months later but from a different address on the same estate. Neighbours were subjected to comings and goings at all times of day and night by different men, some of whom would act aggressively. One male associated with the flat slept in a car on the estate, and would be seen to urinate by the bins. Often visitors would ring the wrong door bells to be let in, or mistakenly would ask the person answering for a “sex massage”. Stickers for massage services littered the lampposts in the area.
Due to the seriousness of the complaints and the nature of the ASB, the police and council decided to implement the new Premise Closure Power under the ASB, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
Due to the nature of the case, with potentially vulnerable females living and working in the property, the Area Crime Reduction Manager consulted with Lambeth Council’s Violence Against Women and Girls Team who coordinated a joint visit with the police to the property with Lambeth’s specialist services in this area. The aim of the joint visit was to assess whether there were any concerns that anyone in the property may have been trafficked and to offer support to anyone in the property who is involved in prostitution. The assessment for trafficking involved a series of questions used to identify key indicators of trafficking. In this case a Romanian translator assisted with this, as the females at the property were known to be Romanian with limited English.
Once the visit was completed, and concerns of trafficking ruled out, a Case Conference was held with the Area Crime Reduction Manager, the Cluster Inspector and the Violence Against Women and Girls worker to look at all the evidence, including previous interventions, and to agree the way forward. It was agreed by all those present that a Premise Closure Notice and Order under the new Anti-Social Behaviour, Policing and Crime Act 2014 was the best course of action and was necessary to address and stop the ASB associated with the premises. This notice would offer immediate respite for the neighbours by making it an offence for any visitors to the premises to enter. By attending court the day after the issuing of the notice and applying for the full order, this would offer longer term respite because, if successful, it would be an offence for anyone to be in the premises. It was agreed that this was the best course of action as previous attempts to engage the landlord or the managing agent of the property had proved futile and no action had been taken by them to address the issues with their tenants.
That same day, Lambeth’s Area Crime Reduction Manager, and the local Police Safer Neighbourhood Team attended the address to serve the notice on the occupiers. No one was present, so notices were posted through the door, and attached to the front door and also the wall adjacent to the door.
The officers attended the home addresses for the owner and the managing agent of the premises and served copies of the notices on them, as interested parties.
The following day, the officers attended Camberwell Magistrates Court and applied for a full order, to close the premises for three months. The managing agent attended court to defend the order, and the case was adjourned until the following week when the court granted a full order, stating that the order was necessary to protect the community from the on-going anti-social behaviour.
- The premises were successfully closed for the maximum period of three months. Regular checks were carried out by the Safer Neighbourhood Team to ensure that the activities did not resurface, which they did not. Since the closure the Area Crime Reduction Manager and Safer Neighbourhood Team have been working with Croydon police in a wider investigation as it is believed that this premises is linked to a number of brothels in Croydon.
- There was an immediate reduction in the ASB and nuisance, and this had a positive impact on the neighbours and local community who had been subject to the noise, anti-social behaviour, and harassment from men visiting the premises
There were no cost implications to Lambeth Council in this case apart from officers’ time. The closure notice and order was signed off by the MET police, and a legal representative attended the court hearing for the order, so there was some cost implication for the MET.
Area Crime Reduction Manager, Lambeth South