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New power to close problem premises
A tough new power to close premises involved in persistent anti-social behaviour comes into force today, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced at a conference for frontline anti-social behaviour practitioners.
Police and local authorities can now apply to magistrates' courts to close privately owned, rented, commercial and local authority premises. The new Premises Closure Order extends crack house closure powers, which have been used successfully to close over 1,000 crack houses and bring respite to hundreds of local communities since they were introduced in 2004, to other premises associated with persistent nuisance.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:
"Anti-social behaviour has no place in our daily lives. Perceptions of anti-social behaviour have fallen in recent years but we will never let our guard down. I want the public to know that we're right behind them and taking action.
"The new premise closure order power will enable police forces and local authorities to close any premises - privately owned or rented accommodation - that cause significant and persistent disorder in the local community. That means no-one will be able to hide from the law if they cause serious nuisance to their neighbours.
"Premises closures will only be used as a last resort, but they make it clear that anyone who thinks they can flout the law and get away with it is just plain wrong."
Households will have plenty of warning that a closure is imminent. The closure power has been used successfully in Scotland since 2004. Twenty-six premises have been closed including a massage parlour in Strathclyde which had made life hell for the local community with constant visitors, kerb crawlers and harassment of female residents.
Councillor Hazel Harding, Chair for the Local Government Association's Safer Communities Board, said:
"Councils work 24/7 to keep residents safe and local areas free of anti-social behaviour. Premises closure orders will be a useful weapon in helping councils create places where people want to live.
"It's important to be clear though, councils will only ever use these orders as a last resort and after giving people every possible warning. Town halls will always be careful to consider the effect that a premises closure order could have on children and vulnerable adults."
Local authorities and police are expected to use this power as a last resort, once the full range of appropriate anti-social behaviour interventions have been tried without success. Owner-occupiers and tenants will be able to return to their properties after three month period and will continue to be monitored to ensure they have changed their behaviour. Local authorities and police can apply for an extension if they believe it would be in the community's best interest. Anyone who breaches the terms of the order by returning to the premise could face up to six months in prison and or a £5,000 fine.
NOTE TO EDITORS
1. Premises Closure Orders were created by the Criminal Justice and immigration Bill which received Royal Assent on 9 May 2008.
2. Guidance is being sent to all anti-social behaviour co-ordinators and will be available to download from the anti-social behaviour website http://www.respect.gov.uk.
3. The Home Secretary addressed anti-social behaviour frontline practitioners about the use of the premises closure order and the importance of all anti-social behaviour tools and powers at a conference in London today, while Home Office Minister Alan Campbell spoke at the Northern Housing Consortium conference.
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