The research, carried out on behalf of the Manifesto Club, found the threshold for using Community Protection Notices (CPNs) varied greatly between different councils and that more than 20 per cent of councils are currently issuing CPNs without a policy to guide their use.
CPNs are powers given to council officials and police officers to impose legal restrictions upon individuals, without going through a court, based only on the judgement that a person’s conduct is having a ‘detrimental effect’ upon others.
The first study looked at how councils apply these powers based on Freedom of Information requests to local authorities across England and Wales. Other findings from the research include:
- Councils lack formal procedures to guide their use of CPNs. Only 7.9% of councils have a policy in place that specifically deals with CPNs and CPWs. 21.8% of councils are currently issuing CPNs without a policy to guide their use.
- 70.8% of councils indicated that there is some system of oversight in the issuing of CPNs, most commonly that the CPN is reviewed by a senior officer. However, 15 councils (4.4%) indicated that there is no system of oversight to ensure that CPNs are being used correctly.
- Councils employed very different thresholds for the issuing of a CPN, with 19.5% using ‘harassment, alarm and distress’, 32.8% allowing officers to judge on a case by case basis. Other councils used much lower thresholds: 3.8% of councils (13 councils) used a ‘negative impact’ on the area as a threshold, and 2.6% of councils (9 councils) issued CPNs when a person’s conduct ‘could encompass annoyance and inconvenience’. The researchers concluded that ‘people undertaking the same behaviours have the potential to be sanctioned differently based on where they live’.
- Council officers issuing CPNs have varying levels of training. 66% of councils reported some level of training for issuing CPNs, although this varied from a BTEC Level 3 qualification to ‘on the job’ training, or the vaguely defined ‘internal and external training’. 22 councils (6.4%) reported that no specific training is provided, which leaves the interpretation of the legislation to the individual officer.
- The report concludes that ‘there is a postcode lottery’ of CPN practices currently being undertaken, and that flexibility ‘should not be at the expense of standardised processes to ensure these sanctions are being applied fairly across England and Wales’.
A second study looking at the experience of recipients of CPNs based on in depth interviews has also been published. This study found:
- Two thirds of interviewees detailed difficulties when attempting to communicate with the issuing authority to discuss the contents of the notice.
- CPN recipients were often unaware of the evidence of their perceived anti-social behaviour and said that no evidence was provided when they were issued with their notice.
- CPN recipients felt that not enough time was given to take the necessary action required in the notice.
- Interviewees also detail difficulties of appealing the notices in court.
- Some CPN recipients said that it was difficult for them to comply with the imposed conditions of the order.
Dr Vicky Heap, reader in Criminology at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “Despite being available to authorising bodies since 2014, there is very little evidence about how Community Protection Notices are utilised and consequently experienced by recipients.
“Our research begins to address this gap in understanding by exploring both the issuing process and perceptions of recipients. We uncovered great variations in issuing practices, which could lead to an uneven application of the powers across England and Wales.
“Furthermore, our work with recipients highlights the need for greater procedural safeguards to reduce disproportionality and bolster due process. Ultimately, our findings suggest that more extensive research is required to better understand the use and impact of these coercive powers.”