THERE is draft legislation zipping about the House of Lords at the moment, which seeks to scrap Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) and replace them with Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNAs). This is, apparently, not simply an exercise in finding a catchier acronym, but due to a long-stated need to improve our response to those issues which affect our quality of life. About bloody time.
The civil liberty brigade is predictably up in arms (they’re quite annoying – can we slap an IPNA on them?) and no doubt the great unwashed will take to the streets to argue noisily and counter-productively that they aren’t causing a nuisance at all, merely exercising their right to freedom of expression. They can have an IPNA, too. In fact anyone congregating on a pavement in such a manner that one has to step round them should be subject to one of these handy orders, along with anyone waving placards around. That would have the dual effect of getting rid of those rather depressing human signs advertising golf sales and tanning studios.
Let’s IPNA buskers too (unless they’re in tune – I’m not a complete philistine), and beggars, obviously. Top of my list, though, would be the chuggers, stepping neatly into my path with a clipboard and a terrifying smile. They never ask “Could you spare some change?” but, “Do you care about disabled children/blind donkeys/paraplegic tortoises”, presented in such a way that a refusal may as well be an announcement that you like to grate newborn babies into your scrambled egg. They can definitely have an IPNA.
To impose an IPNA the court will have to be satisfied that ‘on the balance of probabilities, the respondent has engaged or threatens to engage in conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person.’ What a marvellous catch-all: that surely includes carol singers, door-to-door salesmen, political canvassers, and indeed anyone who breaches my personal space by knocking on my door without my permission. I can’t wait. Sadly, last week the bill was defeated in the Lords by 306 to 178 votes, but I’ve every confidence it’ll make it through for Royal Assent from the Queen, who will surely be delighted for the opportunity to put a stop to the kids kicking footballs up against Buck House, and the tourists poking their noses across the ‘no access’ ropes during official tours.
The IPNAs are a strike against everyday irritants, and a move towards a more civilised Britain – how could she possibly fail to offer her support? Annoyingly, IPNAs can only be issued to children aged 10 and over, which puts my children several years out of the equation. I wonder if they’d make a special case?
Clare Mackintosh is a freelance feature-writer, columnist and crime novelist, and a former Police Inspector. Follow her on Twitter @claremackint0sh or read her blog at www.claremackintosh.com/blog