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Police closure powers - changes unveiled28 May 2012
The recently published White Paper on tackling anti-social behaviour includes proposals to streamline and simplify existing police powers to close problem premises to make it quicker and easier for them to take action. This would appear to impact on existing enforcement powers and particularly the 'section 19' closure notices over which there has been some recent controversy. Such powers would be subsumed into a new 'Community Protection Order'. This will effectively widen police powers to issue an order to temporarily close a property for up to 48 hours on the grounds that there is public nuisance or likely imminently to be disorder and the closure is necessary. Local Authorities will also be able to use these new powers under the proposal.
The Police or Local Authority would then have to apply to the Magistrates' Court as soon as reasonably practicable after the order comes into effect for it to be considered and any possible extension (up to 3 or 6 months) granted.
The full White Paper setting out the proposals can be found here.
The relevant extract from the White Paper follows:
"Community Protection Order (closure)
3.37 The new, simpler, closure powers would allow the police or local authority to protect victims quickly by issuing an order to temporarily close any property, including licensed premises, businesses and private residences for up to 48 hours if there is a public nuisance or if there is or is likely imminently to be disorder and if the closure is necessary. The police or local authority would have to apply to the Magistrates' Court as soon as reasonably practicable after the order comes into force for the court to consider the order and any extension. The habitual resident, owner or landlord would still be able to enter a property subject to a closure for less than 48 hours. Breach of the 48 hour closure would carry a maximum fine of £5,000 fine for individuals, a maximum fine of £20,000 fine for businesses and/or up to three months in prison.
3.38 The notice could be used in a range of situations related to both licensed and other premises, including:
- Closing a nightclub, where the police have intelligence to suggest that disorder is likely in the immediate vicinity on a specific Friday night; and
- Closing a property where loud music is being played at unsociable hours in a residential area, where negotiation had failed to resolve the issue.
3.39 The test for continuing the closure of the property for longer than 48 hours would be higher than the initial test: that a person has engaged in disorder, anti-social or criminal behaviour on the property, and that the premises is associated with disorder or serious nuisance. A property subject to such an order could be completely closed for up to three months initially, and up to a maximum of six months in total. Breach of the longer closure order would carry a maximum fine of £5,000 fine for individuals, a maximum fine of £20,000 fine for businesses and/or up to six months in prison.
3.40 Examples of where a longer closure order might be sought are:
- A premises used for drug dealing, associated with serious anti-social behaviour in the immediate vicinity;
- A premises where the persistent behaviour of the residents (e.g. visitors coming and going at all hours, frequent loud parties, harassment and intimidation of neighbours) is associated with serious anti-social behaviour in the immediate vicinity.