“Peers defeat 'annoyance' injunction proposals”

By Barbara Speed

| 10 January 2014

The House of Lords has blocked government proposals that could have seen injunctions served against children as young as 10 for playing noisily outdoors.

Peers defeated the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill by 128 votes over concerns about the definition of antisocial behaviour used in the proposed legislation.  

The bill outlines plans to replace antisocial behaviour orders (Asbos) with injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance (Ipnas), that could be served to anyone aged 10 or over for displaying “conduct capable of causing nuisance and annoyance to any person”. These would cover a wider range of behaviours, would require less evidence and be easier to serve.

Play campaigners, many of whom had raised concerns that Ipnas would be used to curtail children’s ability to play outdoors, welcomed the Lords’ vote.

Penelope Gibbs, chair of the Standing Committee of Youth Justice, said: “We’ve campaigned long and hard on this issue, so it’s great to see that paying off.

“We now hope that the government accepts that its proposed definition of antisocial behaviour was seriously flawed and does not try and reverse the Lords’ decision.”

Tim Gill, an independent play expert, added: “Antisocial behaviour is a problem, but so is opposition to children playing outdoors.”

He said the opposition to the bill, which included a formal legal opinion from Lord Ken Macdonald QC, former director of public prosecutions, shows that it is “fundamentally flawed”.

During the bill’s consultation, campaigners warned that the proposals could draw more children and young people into the criminal justice system because breaching Ipnas could lead to a three-month custody sentence. Nearly seven out of 10 children breach antisocial behaviour orders.

The bill was defeated in the Lords by 306 votes to 178.

Crime prevention minister Norman Baker said: “The bill was never intended to ban noisy children or carol singers. I am disappointed that the Lords fell for what appear to be scare stories.”

The bill will go back to the Commons and Baker said there will be “further reflection” on its wording following the Lords’ vote.