– Magistrates Court allows use of closure notices to combat anti-social behaviour in social housing stock for the first time
– People with no lawful reason to be in the area can be put in prison or fined for the next three months
Tower Hamlets Council and Tower Hamlets Homes have helped the police obtain the borough’s first closure order for a block of flats in Bethnal Green.
Thames Magistrates Court agreed the closure order for Bentworth Court, E2 after hearing residents’ complaints about drugs, rough sleeping and homeless people defecating and urinating in the public areas over a period of months.
Residents were also “overwhelmingly” supportive of the order during consultation with them to decide whether it should be introduced.
For the next three months, anyone who does not have a lawful reason to be in the public areas of the flats and commits anti-social behaviour could be liable to a fine, imprisonment for up to three months or both.
One suspect has already been arrested and kept in custody for breaching the closure.
Inspector Darren Baxter, who applied for the order from Thames Magistrates Court said:
“A number of residents in Bentworth Court are vulnerable due to age or disability. This closure represents a new way to tackle Anti-Social Behaviour and drug use in partnership with the council and Tower Hamlets Homes and will improve the quality of life of our residents.”
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets said:
“This is an innovative piece of partnership work that will benefit our residents enormously.
“We are committed to maximising our powers to stamp out crime and anti-social behaviour. We are sending the message that it is not ok to behave in a way that impacts badly on others.”
Councillor Asma Begum, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, added:
“Our residents were overwhelmingly supportive of the closure notice during consultation with them about the implications of the closure notice. The notice will make the estate much safer than it was.” Susmita Sen, Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Homes said:
“This is a difficult and unusual situation and we only took this measure as a last resort. We had to find a way of to stop the lives of residents being made a misery by people not living in the block.
“We gave our full support to the police in applying for this order only when we were sure we had the full backing of residents.” Closure notices fall under section 80 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and can be used in a specific area which is experiencing disorder or where disorder is anticipated.
At any time before the closure order expires, an application can be made to extend it for another three months.