Can you rely on evidence older than six months when applying for a Civil Injunction Order?
In the recent case of Birmingham City Council v Pardoe  the High Court specified the circumstances in which conduct occurring before 23 September 2014 was admissible as evidence in a Civil Injunction application.
Birmingham City Council (BCC) applied for a Civil Injunction against various defendants, one of whom was Glenn Pardoe (GP). It was alleged GP, had engaged in anti-social behaviour over many years by targeting elderly and vulnerable people and charging them excessive sums of money for unnecessary building works which were of poor quality. At trial, BCC was successful in obtaining interim Civil Injunction order, The Court then considered an application by the Defendants to exclude the first 27 of 49 allegations put forward by BCC on the basis that they had taken place prior to 23 September 2014.
This meant that the Court was prevented from considering them by virtue of section 21(7) of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (the Act) which states that the Court may only take account of conduct occurring up to six months before the commencement date, this being 23 March 2015.
Section 1 of the Act states that the Court may grant a Civil Injunction if two conditions are met:
- the Court is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Respondent has engaged or threatened to engage in anti-social behaviour; and
- the Court considers it just and convenient to grant an Injunction for the purposes of preventing the Respondent from engaging in anti-social behaviour.
The District Judge dismissed the Defendants' application stating that the sub-section should not be construed to mean that the Court could not consider any alleged incident which took place before 23 September 2014 as that would lead to "absurd and unworkable results".
The District Judge concluded that whilst the Court could not consider the period before 23 September 2014 in relation to the first condition under Section 1 of the Act, it could, and should, consider the period before 23 September 2014 in relation to the second condition (whether it was just and convenient to grant an Injunction).
GP appealed arguing that the limitation period set out in Section 21(7) was clear and unambiguous and applied to both conditions of Section 1 of the Act. The High Court dismissed this argument and held that: (1) Anti-social behaviour involved a course of conduct. There would usually be an interval of some time between the earliest incident complained of and an application for a Civil Injunction. Section 21(7) served as an "obvious and a sensible" purpose because it allowed BCC to rely on conduct that had occurred during the six months prior to the commencement of the Act as qualifying behaviour when it would otherwise have been limited to acts occurring after the commencement date.
It was also held that the effect of section 21(7) would reduce the longer the Act was in force making it less likely for a social landlord to need to rely on conduct which occurred before the Act commenced.
It was therefore determined that when applying for a Civil Injunction under the Act a Claimant landlord has to satisfy the Court of the first condition in section 1 by proving that a defendant has engaged in anti-social behaviour after 23 September 2014 and if such behaviour was not proved the Court had no jurisdiction to grant an Injunction.
Whilst the 23 September 2014 date will become less troublesome for (social) landlords the longer the Act is in force, this case provides useful clarification on the ability to rely on evidence that pre-dates this date.