Thousands of householders who fail to clean their windows or tidy their gardens are facing the threat of a criminal record under new Victorian-style laws introduced by councils. Playing music, drinking alcohol in public, watching television and even crying are among the things being outlawed by local authorities using Community Protection Notices (CPNs).
The orders were a key measure of anti-yob laws unveiled by then Home Secretary Theresa May in the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.
Local authorities can issue them to individuals or businesses such as takeaway shops banning them from doing certain things if they believe it will improve the quality of life in a location.
ailing to comply with a notice – similar to an Asbo – is a criminal offence which can be punished by an on-the-spot fine of up to £100. Individuals can also be taken to court where the maximum fine would be £2,500. Businesses can be fined £20,000 for a breach.
However, the first analysis of the new power has found that in the 12 months to October last year, 107 councils issued a total of 3,943 CPNs.
Newham in east London imposed the most with 1,486 followed by Wakefield on 802.
Today’s report, by the Manifesto Club, warns that as a result, there is now a ‘serious danger’ that CPNs are being used to ‘impose unreasonable restrictions upon law-abiding members of the public’.
Some councils have applied them to criminalise ‘very ordinary behaviour’ in a bid to rake in money, the report today claims.
Town Hall chiefs in Rotherham ordered one person to clean the windows of their house both internally and externally – or they would be committing a offence.
In Doncaster, a person was told to prune all overgrown plants, shrubs and bushes in their front garden so it was ‘in keeping with the neighbourhood’.
Four councils – East Devon, North Devon, Exeter and Conwy in Wales – issued CPNs to stop people feeding birds. Newcastle-Under-Lyme in Staffordshire imposed notices restricting shouting, arguing and crying.
in East Lancashire a man was threatened with a CPN ordering him to take down ‘inflammatory’ signs criticising a new housing development – effectively stifling criticism of its policy.
In Warwick, council chiefs issued notices banning youths from knocking on doors and running away. The Manifesto Club’s report said: ‘While door knocking is annoying, it is also a relatively run-of-the-mill childhood misdemeanour and hardly warranting of a criminal record.’
It added: ‘Such orders undermine the privacy and sanctity of the home. If you cannot cry within your own house, or feed the birds in your garden, then the home has no significant meaning as a private space which is protected from the demands of the outer world.
‘There appears to be little respect for the rights of home ownership or the notion that your house or garden are places that you can manage as you see fit.’