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Antisocial Behaviour and the Law

Antisocial behaviour is legally defined as “behaviour by a person which causes, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to persons not of the same household as the person’.

When most people think about ‘antisocial behaviour’ they probably think about being disturbed by rowdy yobs gathering in gangs harassing passers by; drunkenness, shouting, swearing and fighting; verbal abuse; and vehicles being driven dangerously or at high speed.

Which is pretty much the antisocial behaviour that monitors and sabs routinely face from pro-hunt supporters and pro-cull supporters.

As shown by action taken against the Warwickshire Hunt in December 2022 (see our featured image above), agencies have begun to recognise the antisocial behaviour of hunts. They are guided what they can do about antisocial behaviour by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

Punishment for antisocial behaviour includes being given a civil injunction, Community Protection Notice (CPN), or Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO).

Gov.UK states that Civil injunctions, CPNs and CBOs replaced Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2014, but confusingly the NiDirect government services website still gives details about ASBOs in Northern Ireland. ASBOs are still used in Scotland, the mygov.scot site saying that anyone over the age of 12 can be given an Antisocial Behaviour Order (ASBO) if they behave antisocially.

While not written for an ‘eyes in the field context, advice given by Neighbourhood Watch on recording antisocial behaviour mirrors much of our own thinking on Recognise, Record, Report and establishing patterns of behaviour and/or crime: “It is important to keep a record of incidents and behaviours as this will be of great help in investigating the behaviour and tackling it. It can also help you to get some perspective on how often it happens. If you decide to take formal action at some stage, it can help others see an established pattern of nuisance over time.”

(See also > Harassment and the Law)

 

 

The Metropolitan Police have published a page on the dfferent types of antisocial behaviour which we are largely reproducing here. Some are not relevant in an ‘eyes in the field’ context, of course, but eg hunt followers may well be guilty of at least 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

 

 

Three main categories for antisocial behaviour depend on how many people are affected:

  • Personal antisocial behaviour is when a person targets a specific individual or group.
  • Nuisance antisocial behaviour is when a person causes trouble, annoyance or suffering to a community.
  • Environmental antisocial behaviour is when a person’s actions affect the wider environment, such as public spaces or buildings.

 

Under these main headings, the Met list thirteen different antisocial behaviour types:

  1. Vehicle abandoned: This covers vehicles that appear to have been left by their owner, rather than stolen and abandoned. It includes scrap or ‘end of life’ vehicles and those damaged at the scene of a road traffic collision that have been abandoned and aren’t awaiting recovery.
  2. Vehicle nuisance or inappropriate use: This relates to vehicles being used in acts such as street cruising (driving up and down the street causing annoyance and bothering other road users), vehicle convoys and riding or driving on land other than a road. It also covers the misuse of go-peds, motorised skateboards and electric-propelled cycles, and the unlicensed dealing of vehicles where a person has two or more vehicles on the same road within 500 metres of each other.
  3. Rowdy or inconsiderate behaviour: This refers to general nuisance behaviour in a public place or a place to which the public have access, such as private clubs. It does not include domestic-related behaviour, harassment or public disorder which should be reported as crimes.
  4. Rowdy or nuisance neighbours: This covers any rowdy behaviour or general nuisance caused by neighbours, including boundary and parking disputes. It also covers noise nuisance from parties or playing loud music.
  5. Littering or drugs paraphernalia: This includes fly posting and discarding litter, rubbish or drugs paraphernalia in any public place.
  6. Animal problems: This covers any situation where animals are creating a nuisance or people’s behaviour associated with the use of animals is deemed as antisocial. It includes uncontrolled animals, stray dogs, barking, fouling and intimidation by an animal.
  7. Trespassing: This is any situation in which people have entered land, water or premises without lawful authority or permission. It ranges from taking an unauthorised shortcut through a garden to setting up unauthorised campsites.
  8. Nuisance calls: This covers any type of communication by phone that causes anxiety and annoyance, including silent calls and intrusive ‘cold calling’ from businesses. It does not cover indecent, threatening or offensive behaviour which should be reported as crimes.
  9. Street drinking: This relates to unlicensed drinking in public spaces, where the behaviour of the persons involved is deemed as antisocial. It also covers unplanned and spontaneous parties which encroach on the street.
  10. Activity relating to sex workers or sex working: This relates to any activity such as loitering, displaying cards or promoting sex worker services. It may also refer to activities in and around a brothel that impact on local residents. It does not include ‘kerb-crawling’ which should be reported as a crime.
  11. Nuisance noise: This relates to all incidents of noise nuisance that do not involve neighbours (see ‘Nuisance neighbours’ above).
  12. Begging: This covers anyone begging or asking for charitable donations in a public place, or encouraging a child to do so, without a license. Unlicensed ticket sellers at or near public transport hubs may also fall into this category.
  13. Misuse of fireworks: This includes the inappropriate use of fireworks, the unlawful sale or possession of fireworks and noise created by fireworks.

As a punishment for antisocial behaviour an individual can get a civil injunction, Community Protection Notice (CPN) or Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO). Civil injunctions, CPNs and CBOs replaced Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2014. ASBOs are still used in Scotland.

  • A court may give an individual a civil injunction or a CPN if it gets reports of persistent antisocial behaviour from the police, a council or a landlord.
  • An individual can get a civil injunction or CBO if they’re 10 or over and a CPN if 16 or over.
  • An individual can only get a CBO if they’ve been convicted of a crime.

 

There’s no maximum amount of time a CPN can last, and no maximum amount of time a CBO can last if given to an individual over 18 years of age.

The punishment for not following a civil injunction is:

  • a 3 month detention order if you’re under 18
  • up to 2 years’ imprisonment or unlimited fine if you’re 18 or over

 

The punishment for not following a CPN is a fine between £100 and £2,500.

The punishment for not following a CBO is:

  • up to 2 years in a detention centre if aged under 18
  • up to 5 years in prison or an unlimited fine (or both) if 18 or over

A civil injunction is a civil order which is available in the county court for adults and in the youth court for juveniles under 18. To obtain an injunction the court must be satisfied that an individual (or organisation) has engaged in, or threatens to engage in, conduct capable of causing nuisance and annoyance.

An injunction can be applied for by the police, a local authority, a housing provider, the British Transport Police Force, Transport for London, the Environment Agency or the NHS Business Services Authority.

An injunction has two purposes.

  • To place sanctions on perpetrators to stop their behaviour.
  • to demand positive actions to address the underlying reasons for their behaviour, to reduce antisocial behaviour in the long term.

 

What is viewed as ‘low level antisocial behaviour’ will typically be dealt with by an injunction. If the injunction is breached the maximum punishment is two years’ imprisonment for an adult, or a three month detention order for a young person aged 14 to 17 (as this is viewed as contempt of court).

Community protection notices (CPNs) are designed to stop a person aged 16 or over, business or organisation committing antisocial behaviour which spoils the community’s quality of life.

This can include offences such as noise nuisance, eyesore rubbish on private land, and antisocial behaviour.

A CPN can be issued by council officers, police officers, police community support officers (PCSOs) or social landlords, if designated by the council.

Grounds for issuing a CPN include instances in which an individual’s behaviour:

  • has a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality
  • is unreasonable and
  • is of a persistent nature.

Available for use against seriously antisocial individuals, Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) have replaced Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) and Drinking Banning Orders (DBOs).

A CBO can be applied for on conviction for any criminal offence in any criminal court. The orders can only be made through an application by the Crown Prosecution Service. However this can either be through their own initiative or at the request of the council or police.

If a court is satisfied that the alleged offender has committed behaviour causing harassment, alarm and distress (the same test used for the ASBO) and future Antisocial Behaviour can be prevented then the CBO will be granted.

The court can also be presented with hearsay evidence, which is something not permitted in criminal proceedings.

Section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 gives a Police Constable and a Police Community Support Officer in uniform the power to exclude a person from an area for a period of up to 48 hours with an Inspector’s authority. Section 35 dispersal powers can apply to any antisocial behaviour, not just alcohol-related crime and disorder, and does not require the pre-designation of a dispersal zone.

According to Cheshire Police:

In addition to having the Inspector’s authority, the police officer must have reasonable grounds to suspect that the behaviour of the person in the locality has contributed to or is likely to contribute to:

  • members of the public in the locality being harassed, alarmed or distressed, or
  • the occurrence in the locality of crime or disorder, and
  • that the PC or PCSO considers that giving a direction to the person is necessary for the purpose of removing or reducing the likelihood of the above.
 

The direction given by a PC or PCSO in uniform:

  • must be given in writing, unless that is not reasonably practicable
  • must specify the area to which it relates
  • may impose requirements as to the time by which the person must leave the area and the manner in which the person must do so (including the route)
  • the officer must (unless it is not reasonably practicable) tell the person to whom the direction is given that failing without reasonable excuse to comply with it is an offence.
 

There are two conditions to use the dispersal power when authorised by an Inspector or above:

The officer must have reasonable grounds to suspect that the behaviour of the person has contributed to, or is likely to contribute to:

  • members of the public in the locality being harassed, alarmed or distressed or;
  • crime and disorder in the locality.
  • And the officer considers the direction to leave necessary for removing or reducing the likelihood of crime, disorder or Antisocial Behaviour.

To quote the Warwickshire Rural Crime Team on Facebook (22 Dec 2022):

“Today we have served a Community Protection Notice to Warwickshire Hunt Limited.

We’ve issued this because we gave Warwickshire Hunt a warning notice in May 2022 about antisocial use of the county road network. We continue to see unreasonable and dangerous use of the roads.

This notice imposed conditions to address this behaviour under the scope of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The conditions require Warwickshire Hunt to give us advance notice of events, and details of the times and locations of road crossing points. There are also requirements to inform us about who will control dogs during the event, and for the organisation to notify participants about their responsibilities around crossing roads at designated points. Breaching the conditions will amount to a criminal offence.

This is a three-year notice, and the organisation has the right of appeal within 21 days.

We have issued this notice because we’re committed to keeping the Warwickshire road network safe. We want to prevent criminal behaviour that impacts our communities using our roads safely.

We encourage anyone who witnesses or is impacted by antisocial use of our roads to contact us so that we can respond.”

Police in Hertfordshire slapped the Puckeridge and Essex Union Hunt with a Community Protection Notice (CPN) in July 2023. The requirements of the notice were extensive and included sixteen measures that the hunt must abide by within the county. 

They include:

  • Creating a map of every trail laid, plus having video evidence available of said trails for the police.
  • Providing police with a map of the day’s hunting including road crossings 24 hours in advance of the meet itself.
  • The hunt must keep hounds on the line of an artificially laid trail. If hounds deviate from the trail, the hunt itself must be suspended.
  • Gaining prior written permission from every landowner for the hunt’s presence on their land.
  • Not to disrupt traffic on a public road, and to pick dog poo up on public rights of way or verges.
  • Taking steps to ensure that no member of the hunt shall abuse members of the public or landowners when being asked for information or requesting the trail hunt leave their land or remove the dogs from the road and take disciplinary action against any such member where applicable.

 

The measures also notably mention cubbing, the early period of the hunting season in which young hounds are trained to chase and kill by hunting fox cubs. The Puckeridge and Essex Union Hunt must provide police with the details of where and when the hunt will take place as well as those in attendance.

(For more details go to ‘Police slap a newly merged hunt with an ‘ASBO’ before its even got going‘)

Yes. Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) are still given out in Scotland (England, Wales, and Northern ireland replaced them with civil injunctions, Community Protection Notices, and Criminal Behaviour Orders in 2014). Anyone over the age of 12 can be given an Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO) if they behave antisocially.

Behaving antisocially includes:

  • drunken or threatening behaviour
  • vandalism and graffiti
  • playing loud music at night
  • driving in an inconsiderate or careless way – such as drivers congregating in an area for racing

 

Being given an ASBO doesn’t mean that an individual been convicted of a crime, and it won’t be part of a criminal record. But it is a crime to break the terms of an ASBO.

Getting an ASBO means an individual won’t be allowed to do certain things, such as:

  • going to a particular place, such as their local town centre
  • spending time with people who may be involved in any trouble
  • drinking in the street

 

An ASBO will last for the length of time stated on the order. It could be reviewed if the individual’s behaviour improves.

 

Breaking the terms of an ASBO

Breaking or ‘breaching’ your ASBO is a crime. Any sentence given in court  will depend on why the individual broke the terms of their ASBO and their age.

An adult breaking the terms of an ASBO could be hit with an unlimited fine or five years in prison, or both.

Have you ever wondered what UK law says about hunting with dogs, shooting, or collecting bird eggs? Or what protection foxes, badgers, bats, and birds of prey have? Whether a gamekeeper is using a snare, spring trap, or a cage trap legally? Wanted to know more about operating drones, using airguns, or driving quad bikes legally? What the different forms of trespass are, what constitutes assault, or what we should do if we’re arrested?

And have you ever been unimpressed with having to search hunting and shooting websites to find some of the information you need?

Us too! Which is why we have developed ‘Protectors of the Wild‘ and laid out the information we need in over thirty simple, mobile-friendly pages just like this one.

Protectors of the Wild‘ is a free resource to help us all become ‘eyes in the field’ by learning how to recognise, record, and report wildlife crime and wildlife persecution.

After all, the more we know, the more any potential criminal will have to be looking over their shoulder wondering if we know enough to Recognise, Record, and Report what they’re up to.

And the more we can all do to help protect the wild.

Have you ever wondered what UK law says about hunting with dogs, shooting, or collecting bird eggs? Or what protection foxes, badgers, bats, and birds of prey have? Whether a gamekeeper is using a snare, spring trap, or a cage trap legally? Wanted to know more about operating drones, using airguns, or driving quad bikes legally? What the different forms of trespass are, what constitutes assault or harassment, or what we should do if we’re stopped and searched or even arrested?

And have you ever been unimpressed with having to search hunting and shooting websites to find some of the information you need?

Us too! Which is why we have developed ‘Protectors of the Wild‘ and laid out the information we need in forty-one simple, mobile-friendly pages and over 500 FAQs just like this one.

Protectors of the Wild‘ is a free resource with two aims: to help us all become ‘eyes in the field’ by learning how to recognise, record, and report wildlife crime and wildlife persecution; and to provide a ‘quick guide’ to anyone interacting with hunts, hunt supporters, or the police.

After all, the more we know, the more any potential criminal will have to be looking over their shoulder wondering if we know enough to Recognise, Record, and Report what they’re up to, and the more we know our rights the better we can protect ourselves.

And the more we can all do to help protect the wild.

The National Wildlife Crime Unit currently has seven priority offences for wildlife crime.

Badger persecution

It is illegal to interfere with or block a badger’s home or ‘sett’. Badger baiting is a centuries-old now illegal blood sport, where small dogs such as terriers or lurchers seek badgers out of their setts before fighting and killing them.

Bat persecution

Bats and their homes are legally protected, so disturbing or removing them is an offence. If bats roost in your roof, you need to obtain a special ‘bat mitigation licence’ from Natural England to be allowed to disturb them. They are hugely important to our ecosystem.

Trade of endangered species

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) sets out which endangered animals and plants have protected status. It is illegal to remove any of them from their natural habitat, possess, or sell them. Currently, the top priorities are European eels, birds of prey, ivory, medicinal and health products, reptiles, rhino horns, and timber.

Freshwater pearl mussel offences

These Endangered mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera) are only found in rivers in Scotland and small parts of England. They can live for more than 130 years but are extremely sensitive to water pollution and have been illegally farmed for years. It is illegal to damage or destroy their habitat or to take, injure or kill them.

Poaching

Fox, deer, and hare hunting are all illegal under the Hunting Act 2004. Poaching offences also cover illegal fishing – when anglers do not obtain a licence or remove protected fish from lakes and rivers without returning them.

Raptor persecution

Birds of prey are often targeted on shooting estates. Their eggs are also traded illegally. It is an offence to target, poison, or kill them, with a particular focus on Golden Sagles, Goshawks, Hen Harriers, Peregrines, Red Kites, and White-tailed Eagles. Disturbing or taking their eggs or chicks is also illegal.

Cyber-enabled wildlife crime

Social media is often used to promote wildlife crime and recruit people to take part in it. Endangered plants and animals are also traded illegally online.

  • Punishment must fit the crime. Conditional discharges and paltry fines are not a disincentive for criminals.

A common complaint is that even if wildlife criminals are brought to court the fines or sentences they get are pathetic and not a disincentive. In most cases judges are giving out the penalties they are allowed to under the law. Changes can be made though. In 2022 the maximum sentence for ‘causing uneccesary suffering’ went from six months to five years. That was the result of targeted public pressure and campaigning. We need to identify where changes should be made and push hard for them.

 

  • Wildlife crime must be notifiable and statistics accurately compiled so that resources can be properly targeted.

Police forces are required by law to inform the Home Office of any notifiable offences, which then uses the reports to compile the crime statistics known as ‘recorded crime’. Currently, wildlife crimes are not ‘notifiable’ though (and wildlife crime involving firearms are also not recorded as firearms offences by the Police).  Without them being notifiable, no one knows how many wildlife crimes are being committed across the UK and where the hotspots are (though ‘grouse moors’ is one obvious response). As we have stated many times on this website, law and legislative enforcement is hugely underfunded and under-resourced. Some of this has undoubtedly been through political choice, but if we at least know which crimes are being committed and where, the resources that are available can be placed where they are needed most.

 

  • There must be changes to make it far easier for all of us to play our part in ‘Recognising, Reporting, Recording’ wildlife cime.

As even a quick glance at the Protectors pages makes clear, laws protecting wildlife are hard to understand. Major pieces of legislation like the Hunting Act 2004  and other laws are riddled with exemptions which strongly favour the hunting, shooting, and agricultural industries. Some date from a century or more ago and don’t reflect the modern world. These need to be updated. While there has undoubtedly been efforts made by successive governmants to use ‘plain english’ to explain legislation, any government wanting to tackle wildlife crime needs to make understanding what is and what isn’t a crime far more easily understood and put resources into a reporting system that the public feel confident using. Crucially, the public need to be sure that if they do report a crime it will be acted upon.

 

  • We have to protect the environment and wildlife properly.

Laws protecting wildlife and the environment need to be revised to reflect the 21st century and the biodiversity and climate crises we are in. Animals (and plants) are not an add-on or a ‘nice to have’ – they have shaped the systems that life depends on, and our laws need to reflect how critically important they are.

 

If you’d like to support just one legislative change, Protect the Wild has launched ‘The Hunting of Mammals Bill: A Proper Ban on Hunting‘ – please sign our petition calling for a proper ban on hunting with dogs.

We would like Protectors of the Wild to be the ‘go to’ free resource, packed with the kind of information that really does help all of us become ‘eyes in the field. But we can’t possibly think of every question that might need answering or every situation someone might find themselves in! And while the information in these pages is largely taken from Government online advice and was compiled in 2023 (and constantlyy updated), perhaps we’ve missed something out.

If you could provide us with legal advice get in touch. Or if you find a mistake or a gap please let us know. That way we can continually improve Protectors of the Wild – for the benefit of animals and all of us. Thanks.

‘Protectors of the Wild’ is a project of Protect the Wild. We have a dedicated email address for anyone wishing to get in touch with a specific Protectors query or with additional information etc. Please use the form on our Contact Protectors page or email protectors@protectthewild.org.uk. Thank you.

Much of the information we give in these pages is very technical or to do with legislation which can be revised without much notice. While we have worked very hard on these pages and we take keeping our information accurate and up-to-date very seriously, Protect the Wild are not legal professionals. Just to make sure no-one thinks we’re offering professional legal advice, we feel obliged to include the following disclaimer on every page.

  • Please think of the ‘Protectors of the Wild’ pages as a ‘first stop’ before seeking legal advice. We provide detailed information but not professional advice. The information provided by Protect the Wild should NOT be considered or relied on as legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. Any of the material on our website may be out of date at any given time, and we are under no legal obligation to update such material. While we update and revise as often as we can, Protect the Wild assumes no responsibility for the accuracy and correctness of any information, or for any consequences of relying on it. Please do not act or refrain from acting upon this information without seeking professional legal advice.