Naturists Campaigning for Naturism

Antisocial Behaviour Bill – How to make your representations

Antisocial Behaviour Bill – getting your point over

The danger of abuse of this legislation have been covered elsewhere. Complaining about it to eachother will do no good. If you want to actually change it for the better before it is passed in to Law, and it is too late, you need to act straight away, and contact the people who could change it, and convince them of the need to do so. This means contacting your Member of Parliament straight away. First you need to know who that is. If you are in doubt, you can find out on the following website:   http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/ . All you have to do is enter your postcode. It will tell you who your MP is and give a link to his or her website. Given that time is short, you need the quickest means of contact, so we recommend email or phone, though a letter may also work. You can write to them at the House of Commons or at their constituency office, but be aware that all MP’s have their post filtered and acknowledged by secretaries, and they may not see it themselves for some time afterwards. So, you will need to emphasis the urgency of the matter as this Bill is going through Parliament right now! Also, remember that MPs are very busy people, so be concise and don’t try to mix in other issues. Also be polite, or you will be ignored. If you want an example to follow, there is one below (see bottom of this article), but if you use please personalise it a bit so that your MP doesn’t receive dozens of identical letters.

A face to face meeting with your MP is the best means of communication, though you can only hope for a few minutes. This is best done in ‘Constituency Surgeries’. To book an appointment, contact your MP’s secretary or Constituency Office (details on their website). However this may result in a time slot after the Bill has become Law, so again try to stress the urgency, and get a meeting as soon as possible. If you can get to London, you may get a chance to see them at Westminster, it’s worth trying. Advice on contacting your MP can be seen on the following website : http://www.parliament.uk/about/contacting/mp/

You can also contact any member of the House of Lords. A list, and selector, is available on  http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/lords/

Good luck with your representations. Feel free to post your responses here. And don’t forget, this is happening right now, so don’t delay or you’ll be too late!

Example letter / email to MP

{MP’ Name}

House of Commons

Parliament Square

London SW1A 0AA

{Date 2013}

Dear MP {Name}

Antisocial Behaviour Bill 2013

I am writing to express serious concern over the possible unintended consequences of the Antisocial Behaviour Bill which is currently before Parliament, so this matter is urgent.

 

This Bill is well meaning, as it seems to be aimed at genuinely antisocial behaviour and equips the Police and Courts to deal with it. However, the drafting of the Bill is extremely slack, and my main worry is over Section 1, which defines ‘Antisocial Behaviour’ thus: conduct, capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person (“antisocial behaviour”).

 

This ‘definition’ is no definition at all, as any kind of behaviour is capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to someone. As a result, unless a more robust definition is used, I can see this legislation becoming used inappropriately to try to control others’ freedom in such things as neighbour disputes, bigotry and the general imposition of the views of the influential on harmless minorities in society. It also plays in to the hands of authoritarian Police and Local Government officers, as it gives them virtually unfettered powers to ban behaviour or exclude people from areas, without prior Court sanction, if they decide that whatever is happening is ‘capable of causing nuisance or annoying any person’. ‘Capable’, in their untested opinion of course.

 

I feel strongly that to avoid this legislation having serious unintended consequences, the trigger for action needs to be much stronger than mere ‘nuisance or annoyance’ to ‘any person’. Society will become unmanageable if people are not expected to be reasonably robust and tolerant of things which merely annoy them. After all, what annoys one person can be a pleasure to others. We are all different, and merely ‘annoying’ behaviour is not genuinely antisocial. Some element of potential harm, either physical or psychological needs to be added to the definition, or it sets the bar so low that the Police and Local Authorities  will feel free to ban anything which annoys them, but which may be wholly legal. This Bill, as currently drafted, would criminalise anything a Police officer, Local Government Officer or Magistrate found merely annoying.

 

This Bill is really aimed at the yobbish behaviour and neighbourhood terrorisation which we all recognise as genuinely Antisocial Behaviour. It should say so, so that The Law is known. As drafted, it could mean anything, and what the Law is in this respect can not be known, and will be interpreted differently by every court, according to the personal views of every magistrate. Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights says there must be no punishment without Law. If the law is not known, and yet there is punishment, this Act would be a direct breach of that Convention, to which the UK is a signatory.

The Bill also makes no reference to ‘mens rea’ (intention in mind). It would seem then that unintentional upsetting of people is as illegal as the intentional counterpart. It would be an absolute offence. This is surely not just.  Mens rea is normally an essential element in a crime, and needs therefore to be included in this Bill.

I therefore urge you to actively enter in to the debate and examination of this Bill as it passes through Parliament, and press for a definition of Antisocial Behaviour which is clear, objective, based on harm (actual or potential) rather than mere annoyance or nuisance, and in line with the real intentions behind the Act. Furthermore, the Bill must be redrafted on the basis that people must be reasonably tolerant and robust when considering the actions of others around them.

 

I would be happy to have further discussions with you on this if you wish, and I look forward to hearing your reaction to the points I have raised.

 

Yours sincerely

 

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