Cyril Dixon reports
SEDGEFIELD council – the north-east authority which hit the headlines with its own "community" security patrols – claims to have struck a new blow for law and order with pioneering legal moves to tackle unruly neighbours.
District solicitor Dennis Hall overcome several drawbacks in the use of housing laws to obtain interlocutory injunctions against tenants with unruly children.
His in-house team used section 222 of the Local Government Act 1972 to obtain orders against parents whose teenage children had disturbed and intimidated neighbours.
The action can often because, if the unruly behaviour continues, the children they cannot be committed for contempt of court. However, the obstacle is circumvented by the order requiring the parents to restrain the youths.
Hall said the measure had also protected witnesses from further intimidation because it enabled their evidence to be heard in unsworn statements exhibited in the affidavit sworn by the council housing officer.
Hall said: "Local authority lawyers are constantly examining new ways of dealing with legal aspects of anti-social behaviour on housing estates. This is a new way of using existing procedures.
"The orders require the parents to restrain their children from causing nuisance and harassment. They face committal for contempt if the terms of the injunctions are breached, as well as losing their homes if the possession actions proceed to trial."
Sedgefield were among the first local authorities to take the lead in fighting crime on estates when it set up its own security patrols or "community" force two years ago.