This is a guide to Community Protection Warning Letters and an appeal to help challenge the issuing of them.
Thousands of these warning letters are issued each year under section 43 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. They are the first step in what is often called the new ‘ASBO’ process.
If you receive one of these letters it will say something along the following lines:
- The local council/police/landlord has investigated complaints received
- And is satisfied that your behaviour is having a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality
- And that this conduct is unreasonable.
The letter will go on to state that you should immediately stop doing a number of things and that if you do not stop doing them you will be issued with a Community Protection Notice (CPN). Failing to comply with a CPN is an offence for which you could be prosecuted. Community Protection Warnings and Notices are in effect, a quasi restraining order that can be swiftly issued by the police and the local authority without having to go to the trouble and inconvenience of bringing court proceedings.
Sheila and Nigel Jacklin received a Community Protection Warning letter in January saying they should “immediately stop” (amongst other things) entering an “exclusion zone” between their house and the beach and that they should not be “perceived to be looking into any neighbour’s property.” This was the result of an ongoing feud they had had with their neighbours since 2013. The Jacklin’s case was widely covered in the media at the end of June.
Like most people who receive these letters the Jacklins struggled to find out what to do. Whilst there is plenty of information available on CPN’s, there is not much available on the warning letters. The letters often tend to be couched in fairly general terms and as such they can cause a massive interference with people’s daily lives. For all intents and purposes the warning appears to be an accusation of criminal activity without the recipient being given the chance to counter the allegations or have a hearing in court.
There is no right of appeal against a community protection warning letter; you can only appeal once you get a Community Protection Notice: the next step in the process of issuing penalties for alleged anti-social behaviour. This means that the majority of people who receive them feel that they have no option but to abide by the vague terms specified. As the warning has no time restriction, this means that those subject to them have the threat of criminal prosecution hanging over them for engaging in what can often be lawful everyday behaviour.
In the Jacklin’s instance, the warning letter exceeded the council’s authority to impose restrictions on anti-social behaviour and instead attempted to impose restrictions on how other people would perceive the Jacklin’s behaviour. The third restriction on the warning stated that the Jacklin’s must not:
Be perceived by any person to be looking into any neighbour’s property from outside of their property.
A ridiculous prohibition given that the perception of others is not something that the Jacklins could have control over.
Mr. and Mrs. Jacklin were advised by a solicitor and a local councillor that they should adhere to the terms of the letter even though they felt that going to and from the beach in front of their house could not be deemed as anti-social. Nigel contacted me via the Get Help service and asked for advice.
I told him that if he and his wife’s behaviour did not constitute anti-social behaviour, then they should keep doing it. The local authority and the police had no powers to impose conditions on their behaviour via the instrument of a Community Protection Warning, and refusing to abide by its terms would not in itself constitute an offence. So in early April the Jacklins began going to the beach again. Fairly soon, they got a visit from two local police officers who insisted that they were breaching the terms of the warning. Despite this, no further action was taken and the Jacklins continued to disobey the warning.
As of September 2018 no further action has been taken in respect of the warning. But the police’s belief that the warning constitutes a restraining order, and the constant threat of possible criminal proceedings looming over them gave them good reason to challenge the legality of the warning in court. The process they have used is known as Judicial Review: a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.
Should the Jacklins succeed in having the warning quashed, they will be the first to have challenged the issuance of Community Protection Warning letters, and may in turn establish a precedent that will create a process of review for anyone who is in receipt of one. A successful Judicial Review may also dissuade the police and the local authorities from issuing CPNs as casually and often as they do. According to figures collected by the Manifesto Club – a research group that challenges behaviour policing in public places – found that nearly 4000 CPNs and over 9500 CPN warnings had been issued between October 2014 and October 2015. A figure that keeps growing year on year.
In June 2018, the Jacklins initiated the Judicial Review process through their solicitors Bark & Co, lodging papers with the High Court on August 20th. The Jacklins have launched a CrowdJustice campaign to help fund the court action and establish the right to challenge Community Protection Warning Letters.
You are invited to donate to this campaign in a bid to challenge and limit the state’s ever increasing prohibition on ordinary behaviour and their attempt to restrict the liberties of the public in vague and ambiguous terms with quasi restraining orders. Community Protection Notices – alongside Public Space Protection orders – are an attempt to introduce a rule of law that runs parallel to our existing rule of law, enforcing ad hoc rules that have never been enacted by parliament and denying those subjected to them the right to a fair hearing.
The CrowdJustice link is here: