Last Orders for drink-related Anti Social Behaviour?

Article

09 September, 2009

It is often the case that the cause of anti social behaviour is the perpetrator drinking large amounts of alcohol. Attempting to deal with this kind of conduct can be especially difficult given that there may be an element of dependency upon the alcohol by the individual.

In order to try to deal with this, on 31 August 2009 the Government introduced Drink Banning Orders (DBOs) and are similar in nature to Anti Social Behaviour Orders. Their success in tackling bad behaviour will be keenly watched by interested parties as another item is added to the anti social behaviour preventative toolkit.

What is a DBO?

DBOs are civil orders which can be in force for a period of between two months and two years. They are intended to tackle alcohol-related criminal or disorderly behaviour in the community caused by a person's alcohol misuse, by preventing them from engaging in such conduct in the future. It is important to note that individuals who are engaging in such activity which is not alcohol-related are not suitable for such an order. They can be applied for by either the Police or local authorities against individuals over the age of 16 in the magistrates' and county courts and are intended to be a 'short sharp shock'.

Offenders who breach the terms of a DBO can be fined up to a maximum of £2,500 and under certain circumstances, a DBO can be varied or discharged and appeals can be made against such an order being made. The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 (which introduced DBOs) also provides for the making of interim DBOs.

However, the introduction of the DBO has not been met with universal warmth. The Magistrates' Association has criticised it for being a duplication of existing legislation and has stated that it will not be successful in addressing alcohol-related crime levels.

Prohibition

A DBO may impose any prohibition on the individual that the court considers necessary to protect others from alcohol related crime or disorderly conduct by the individual, while under the influence of alcohol. The prohibitions must include whatever the court thinks necessary for that purpose. The requirement is for the prohibitions to be necessary and proportionate and so may only focus on preventing the person from consuming alcohol in public places, or from purchasing alcohol from licensed premises in a defined area. It is not intended for the person to be prevented from accessing their home or place of work.

It may be interesting to note how the courts will deal with preventing individuals from supermarkets which are licensed to sell alcohol, given that they predominantly sell food and other essentials. At first glance, banning a person from all supermarkets may not be proportionate, so factors may have to taken in account about whether such premises would be the only convenient and easily accessible food outlets within the locality. This is just one of the balances which the court will have to weigh up when DBO applications are made.

What is the legal test for a DBO?

In order for a DBO to be granted, the court must be satisfied that the individual has:

  • engaged in criminal or disorderly conduct while under the influence of alcohol; and
  • the court considers that a DBO is necessary to protect persons and/or their property from further conduct by that individual while under the influence of alcohol.
When would a DBO be appropriate?

It has been suggested that DBOs would be most relevant to instances where the perpetrator conducted criminal behaviour whilst intoxicated. However, because alcohol misuse is associated with a wide range of crimes and disorderly behaviour offences such as public order offences, criminal damages, assaults, violent offences and traffic offences may be appropriate situations for a DBO to be made.

A DBO has been said to be not appropriate in cases where a ban of longer than two years is needed (in which case an Anti Social Behaviour Order may be more suitable), where the behaviour is alcohol related but clearly linked to attending football matches (a Football Banning Order may be more appropriate), or where the individual is subject to proceedings relating to domestic violence proceedings.

Referrals

Recipients of a DBO can be referred by the court to an approved course where the person will be able to address their alcohol misuse behaviour. If the individual completes the course to a satisfactory standard, the duration of the DBO can be reduced. These courses are available across the country but can only be utilised if the court is satisfied that there is a place available for the person and that they have voluntarily agreed to attend and have the requirement included in the DBO.

Summary

Those involved in dealing with anti social behaviour may wish to watch the use of DBOs closely in order to determine the level of success this tool has in preventing such behaviour in the future. Despite initial scepticism about its effectiveness, DBOs offer another option in dealing with bad behaviour and in certain specific circumstances, may be the most suitable tool to use.

For more information and assistance on these issues, please contact the Housing Litigation Department at Forbes Solicitors on 01772 220200 or contact Stuart Penswick by email.

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