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Criminal Behaviour Orders were introduced in 2014, replacing the Anti-Social Behaviour Order as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014. In this article Angela Denison, Victim and Partnership Manager at ASB Help shares her own opinions and experiences of using Criminal Behaviour Orders as part of her working life.

This article is based on my own thoughts, opinions and working life. I appreciate that others may have different views as is their right but for now, this is my story to tell.

I retired as a Police Sergeant in 2019, having worked in the field of Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) since 2004, firstly as a PC prior to promotion in 2011. Whilst I got involved with most, if not every aspect of ASB, I always felt that there was more to learn. Each case brought new challenges and new learning so I would never say I knew everything, although some might have said I was an expert. I definitely felt that I had impostor syndrome in that respect! 

My working life throughout these years saw me work with a brilliant team of motivated and knowledgeable individuals, both Police colleagues and partners. I led a team of 10 staff, and we shared many triumphs, learned a lot together, and also experienced some lows and disappointments at times. I delivered training to many police officers, some of whom weren’t as passionate about the subject of ASB as I was. It can be considered, by some, as quite a dry subject if you don’t ‘get’ it.  

However, I think I can safely say that working in this particular field, it can get into your blood, and once there is difficult to remove.  I tried, and it is my hope, if not belief, that I converted a fair few colleagues to thinking that the ASB enforcement tools were powerful in their own right, and even more of a force when used creatively with other powers. 

Retiring as a Police Sargeant and working at ASB Help

I tried out a couple of things after retiring, only to find that ASB came back into my life as the Victim and Partnership Project Manager for the ASB Help charity. I took up my new role in February 2022, so here I am just a few months in and I’m learning all over again. Having worked in the field for so long, I can appreciate the front-line bureaucracy, deadlines and politics that ASB Officers and partners face on a day-to-day basis. In my experience, however, where there is true partnership working, solutions can often be found.

Not much has changed in the years I’ve been away from ASB. The officers I know still have the same passion and empathy for dealing with ASB cases albeit Covid-19 has taken its toll, both internally and externally.  Working from home was initially a blow to partnership working but those strong partnerships have quickly mobilised themselves and embraced the new virtual ways of working.   

This is by no means a comprehensive guide or walkthrough of applying for a CBO. It is more of a fond look back on a few factors that remain in my mind about them.  Hopefully, it will resonate with some, and no doubt others will have a different view, as is usually the case, for ASB is a very subjective area. 

What is a Criminal Behaviour Order?

For those that don’t know, Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBO) were introduced in the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 and replaced bolt-on ASBOs aka the CRASBO. There is an evidential test to be met when deciding if a CBO is appropriate to use as an enforcement tool, which is: 

  • The court must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the offender has engaged in behaviour that caused or is likely to cause harassment, alarm, or distress to any person
  • Making the order will help in preventing the offender from engaging in such behaviour

The Crown Prosecution Service usually apply for a CBO in court, either following an application from the Police or Local Authority or if they themselves take the initiative to do so. 

The CBO is an order which can be granted on application to the court when an individual has been convicted of a criminal offence. It allows the individual to be subjected to prohibitions and positive requirements. It orders that a person must or must not do specific things, otherwise, they will be in breach of the order and may again face a criminal charge with possible consequences of attending court and being convicted. 

Those of us who worked with the ‘old’ legislation pre-2014 will have been quite comfortable up to then no doubt, in the world of ASBO warnings, ASBOs, and, for Police colleagues, CRASBOs etc. Then came 2014 with the new legislation, and the advent of things becoming simpler, faster and more effective in the fight to tackle ASB. While this may be the case, it is apparent that there are still national inconsistencies in the way that ASB is tackled and how the legislation is implemented. Each local authority has their own reasoning but I believe it would be good to have a more uniform approach so best practice can be more easily shared. 

Inconsistencies in the CBO Process

On the subject of inconsistency, this topic, in particular, sees differing processes being implemented across the country. For example, I am reliably informed that two neighbouring police forces still do not have the same process, even though they are served by the same regional Crown Prosecution Service. Love them or hate them, CBOs have brought an element of interest and healthy debate to the proceedings.  

One thing that does remain a constant is the tenacity and determination that seems to go hand in hand with the more passionate and motivated character of a successful ASB practitioner. 

On a sad note, I don’t think anyone involved in the field of ASB can write on the subject without pausing out of respect to remember the tragic loss of life at the hands of ASB perpetrators. Both before and after the introduction of the ASB Crime and Policing Act 2014, we saw tragic losses of life. I won’t begin to name them for the risk of missing some out and offending the families of the people I may have not mentioned. They all deserve the same courtesy and respect in memory of them.  The resounding questions resulting from those tragic losses are:

  • Can practitioners safely say that they are confident that all the available tools and powers are effectively and creatively utilised?  
  • Do they have the victims at the heart of each and every investigation, or are they at risk of getting lost in the process?

Transitioning from CRASBOs to CBOs

Focussing here on the CBO and personally speaking, the process certainly took some time to settle into. There were new forms to be submitted in a specific order which was a departure from the CRASBO application, which was somewhat a work in progress. The CPS was involved with the creation of the forms we used, which created a united front from the outset. After numerous files being returned for minor errors, like the wording of sentences, or using particular words, we were surprised to see the CPS would apply for CBOs without having to follow the same laborious process we adhered to. This just highlights an inconsistency between services.

Sometimes in cases, we only found out about this weeks later when the perpetrator mentioned a conversation during an encounter with them. I recall a CBO application being submitted for an individual that was rejected by CPS on the grounds it was felt the order would ultimately not change the individual’s behaviour (he was convicted by the way). This was frustrating as I found out that CPS applied for a CBO themselves when he was charged and convicted of a similar offence later down the line. It does seem to be a bit of a postcode lottery; I hear of cases across the country where efforts have been thwarted and an application may be overlooked if the officer in the case isn’t present in court. 

There was also an issue with the interpretation of the CBO legislation. For some time, we went to great pains to push our argument with CPS that there did not have to be an element of harassment, alarm or distress in relation to the charged offence.  It was the CBO application, not the offence charged which needed to evidence this.  We were tasked with presenting evidence of harassment, alarm or distress for the offence charged for some time, although I hear that this issue has been overcome in recent times. 

There is also the issue of applying for a CBO on a youth. Not to be taken lightly and certainly not without the consultation of the Youth Justice Services or Youth Offending Teams (YOT). YOT were hesitant in supporting a CBO application. They insisted, and would often successfully argue, that they would work with the said youth and therefore the CBO was not required. They have a job to do too but it was very frustrating as they are instrumental in steering a young person down the right path. 

Promoting the use of CBOs to colleagues was a challenge too. Whilst it was easy to see how many criminal offences crossed boundaries into many aspects of ASB with the harassment, alarm and distress element always at the forefront of our minds, it was not so easy for specialists in a particular field to understand how an individual being charged with a specific offence might lead to another area of behaviour being tackled at the same time. Our work was ongoing. There was a continuous task of training, promoting CBOs and raising awareness, especially within the Police where staff turnover was high owing to officers seeking promotion and new recruits to the force. 

What is needed to successfully implement CBOs?

The biggest factor in all of this was and still is, getting the conviction at court as, without this, all the hard work in file preparation is for nothing. Court waiting time is now worse (Covid definitely has not helped this) than it ever has been.  It is not a quick fix that’s for sure. The Civil Injunction looks to be the preferred option amongst many, certainly from a time-effective perspective and they are not reliant on a conviction. There may also be other tools and powers in play at the same time, so it makes sense to consider each case on its own merits. CBOs are cheaper though to a cost-conscious department, especially a co-located one. Again, an area for many a lively debate. 

I will stand corrected on this but one element of the CBO which is hardly used is around the positive requirements. There are simply not the resources out there to link in with and make it work.  This is an area for which more time could be devoted, both by myself in writing and by partners, staffing and finances permitting of course. 

Benefits to using CBOs

I have mentioned some challenges and risks to using the CBO process, but it is not all doom and gloom. Maybe a more enthusiastic practitioner would seek any opportunity to make an application with both hands. There are plenty out there as we know. 

CBOs can offer a degree of protection and reassurance to a victim in a way that a sentence alone cannot. Of course, this is reliant on the offender abiding by the terms, and/or a robust policing of any breach, together with an effective offender management process. 

Partnership working is vital to the success of a case; it gives a holistic view of the circumstances. With more eyes seeing things that may otherwise be missed, it paves the way for more creative working. For example, when applying for a CBO, hearsay evidence can be used from an ongoing partner agency case and input from them can show the impact of the behaviour on a community to support the application. A CBO can also be applied for on conviction of other ASB powers, such as breach of Community Protection Notices, or Public Space Protection Orders.

Some individuals who have been subjected to CBOs would have preferred six months in prison. The logic being that the matter is over on release (end of sentence), rather than enduring a minimum 2-year restriction placed on them, which they may struggle not to breach. A CBO is not to punish for previous behaviour but to act as a prevention measure for the future.  The prohibitions on a CBO only relate to behaviours that an individual should not be doing in the first place.   

Breach of a CBO gives a stronger sentencing power than a Civil Injunction so may act as more of a deterrent and a breach is considered an offence, which can be utilised to commence Absolute Grounds for Possession.  

Key Takeaways

CBOs can be used creatively to tackle prolific criminals as well as ASB offenders. We have seen many successful applications whereby vehicle offenders have been disrupted.  An example of this is when individuals have been charged with theft from vehicles, and a CBO application has been made. This was based on victims being frightened of visiting the area for fear of the same happening again and/or being prevented from working due to their equipment being stolen from their car, thus losing income. In these cases, CBOs prohibited the offenders from entering car parks, and specific areas in a locality, to reoffend. 

Other CBOs have been granted for begging, (these took some thought, but much debate was had over the harassment alarm and distress element and was only used as a last resort for prolific offenders, where all other means of support and enforcement had been exhausted), shoplifting, and public order offences to name but a few. 

At the end of it though, the victim is always at the heart of every investigation. As mentioned before, any good ASB practitioner will know this and will want to resolve their cases using whichever enforcement tools are most appropriate for the job, making sure the victim is kept informed and satisfied with the outcome wherever possible. I say this knowing that this isn’t always the case, unfortunately. But we carry on fighting the fight with problem-solving at the core of the investigations, onto the next case to do it all over again.

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Criminal Behaviour orders were introduced as part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, replacing Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. We heard from Angela Denison, Victim and Partnership Project Manager at ASB help about her own experience of using Criminal Behaviour Orders.

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