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Prior to the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014, ASBOS’s (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) against under 18s were a popular - and high profile - tool for tackling anti-social behaviour. Since abolishing the ASBO using the new powers under the 2014 Act, an application for an Anti-Social Behaviour Injunction (ASBI) can be made as long as the defendant is over 10 years old, and a successful application made in the Youth Court sitting at the local Magistrates’ Court will result in the court granting a Youth Injunction.
Information relating to the use of the Youth Injunctions is limited, and they don’t appear to be as well publicised as the ASBO, but why? Is ASB committed by youths in decline? Is the use of ASBIs against youths no longer an interesting press story? Or perhaps the use of ASBIs isn’t something RPs want to promote? No doubt this lack of wider coverage is for a variety or combination of reasons, not just limited to those above.
I suspect that changes implemented by the recent legislation may make Youth Injunctions seem an ‘uphill struggle’ and so potentially less attractive to applicants – largely because of two fundamental differences between the Youth and Adult Injunction.
Firstly, an application for a Youth Injunction is heard in the Youth Court, not the County Court as it is for adults. For many practitioners and clients who are used to making applications in the local County Court, attending the Magistrates Court can be off-putting as the rules and procedures are very different. And, due to ongoing closures, tracking down the appropriate local Magistrates Court can be a task in itself, as can establishing on which days the Youth Court and specially trained youth bench sit.
Secondly, the Youth Offending Team will need to be consulted (unless the application is without notice). You don’t need to obtain permission or agreement, but observations or recommendations need to be considered and documented for the court to consider. If the application is without notice the consultation will need to have occurred before any return hearing takes place.
To add to this there is, frustratingly, no standard document or court form to use for an application. (Many will be familiar with the N16a form used in the county court for injunction applications.)
The Adult and Youth Injunction have symmetrical attributes and features, which still make them attractive legal tools in the right context:
The standard of proof and the conditions to be satisfied for the court to make an order are the same. This is the lower standard of the balance of probabilities and this was written into the legislation to avoid the higher standard of proof that was required for the old ASBO following case law developments.
A power of arrest can be attached if there is evidence that a threat of or use of violence has taken place, or if there is evidence of a significant risk of harm from the defendant. Positive requirements can be a condition of the order, and if an emergency arises the applications can be made without notice.
An additional feature is in circumstances when ASB is being caused by more than one person and there is a mixture of youths and adults, a joint application can be heard in the Youth Court. This avoids the duplication of evidence in different venues on different days and is a more efficient and cost effective way of dealing with linked applications.
Whilst it’s not my place to promote (or deter) the use of youth injunctions, it is clear they have a place for use, in the right context. Having advised and represented a number of Registered Providers in various courts in the North West in Youth Injunction Proceedings my experience has been positive.
The differences that can often be viewed as difficulties are outweighed by the benefits. To date the orders I’ve obtained have resolved long standing complaints of serious and persistent anti-social behaviour.
The orders obtained have not been breached so far and the youths subject to the orders more often than not have been deterred from engaging in further acts of ASB that would have potentially led to criminal convictions. I am in no doubt that not all young people subject to an injunction will obediently observe the terms, but so far their impact seems to be positive.
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