Be ‘proportionate with anti-social powers, councils told.
New guidance on the use of anti-social behaviour powers has been issued to ensure they are reasonably applied.
The Home Office told councils and police in England and Wales the laws should not be used on the vulnerable.
It comes amid concerns orders were being used to target buskers, rough sleepers, dog walkers and groups gathering to chat in town centres.
Victoria Atkins, minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, said powers should be used proportionately.
She said: “We know that these powers are being used to very good effect by the police and local councils across England and Wales, and we are very keen to encourage their continued use.
“But we are also clear that the powers should be used proportionatelyto tackle anti-social behaviour, and not to target specific groups or the most vulnerable in our communities.”
The guidance follows feedback from charities and other groups that the orders were being used to disproportionately target certain groups, including rough sleepers.
Hundreds of fines have been issued for violations such as playing music too loudly in cars and not having a dog on a lead.
Martha Spurrier, director of campaign group Liberty, said some councils were “compassionless” in applying orders on vulnerable people.
“In the last year, very sadly, six people have been sent to prison for being homeless as a result of these orders,” she said.
“They’ve gone very off-piste and have been used by these local councils in a pretty compassionless way – so that poverty effectively ends up being criminalised.”
Local agencies, including councils, police and social landlords, have six powers to tackle anti-social behaviour – the civil injunction, criminal behaviour order, community protection notice, public spaces protection order, closure power, and the dispersal power.
They were introduced in 2014 after the government overhauled old anti-social behaviour powers, believing they were ineffective.
The revised guidelines state orders should be focused on “specific behaviours and are proportionate to the detrimental effect that the behaviour is causing or can cause, and are necessary to prevent it from continuing, occurring or recurring”.
If you consider that this is occurring in your area contact the Home Office and let them know the details and also your local media.
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