The use and abuse of Community Protection Notices, 2020-2022

1. What are CPNs?

Community Protection Notices (CPNs) are powers contained in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, imposing legal restrictions or requirements upon individuals. Police and council officers can issue these notices without going through a court, if they believe that somebody’s behaviour is having a ‘detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality’. (See our Guide to CPNs).

The CPN must be preceded by a Community Protection Warning (CPW), which is issued on the same grounds. The CPW states that if the person does not follow the requirements then a CPN will be issued.

CPNs replaced Litter Clearing Notices, Street Litter Control Notices and Defacement Removal Notices. However, the CPN is much broader and in practice covers a similar terrain to the Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO), which was issued between 1999 and 2014.


Compared to ASBOs, CPNs can be issued on a lower benchmark and are subject to fewer legal formalities. Only a few hundred ASBOs were issued each year without prior conviction for a criminal offence. The impact, and potential for injustice, is far greater for the CPN than the ASBO, yet these powers are subject to far less government scrutiny and have a lower public profile.

Average of 1,776 orders issued per year (1999-2013) Average of 5,976 orders issued per year (2014-2022)
Has to go through court Doesn’t have to go through court
60% issued post-conviction for criminal offence Issued without conviction for criminal offence
Requires conduct causing harassment, alarm or distress Requires conduct that has a detrimental effect on quality of life
Systematically collected government data; some government analysis of the effectiveness of the powersNo government data on use of CPNs; no government analysis of effectiveness of the powers

2. How many CPNs have been issued?

We sent an FOI request to 331 local authorities (some of these authorities had unified, but returned separate data for the period in question). We asked local authorities about the number of CPNs and CPWs issued, and the subject of these CPNs and CPWs. We received responses from 303 councils (28 did not reply, or said that the data was unavailable).

These results show that in the year between November 2021 and October 2022, councils issued 6,161 CPNs and 19,414 CPWs. A record number of councils issued at least one CPN in this period (213 councils, or 70% of councils who responded to the FOI request).

The Manifesto Club has collected the only national data on the issuing of CPNs since 2014. This data shows that nearly 50,000 CPNs have been issued in this period, at an average of 6,000 per year. Numbers of Community Protection Warnings are far higher, averaging 20,000 per year over the past three years. These figures do not include the police use of CPNs, which has not been documented.

Year (Nov-Oct)No. of CPNsNo. of councils issuing CPNs
Number of CPWs
2014-15 (previous Manifesto Club FOI)
3943 107 9546
2015-16 (previous Manifesto Club FOI)
4376 125
2016-17 (previous Manifesto Club FOI)
5730 182
2017-18 (previous Manifesto Club FOI)
6234 192
2018-19 (previous Manifesto Club FOI) 8760 202
2019-20 (previous Manifesto Club FOI)743724,733
2020-21 (current dataset)(*)517019916,607
2021-22 (current dataset)616121319,414
  • (*) Several councils were unable to provide data for 2020-1, which is therefore under-counted.

Download a full dataset of CPNs issued in 2020-2.

The highest issuing councils in 2021-2 were Durham (issuing 819 CPNs and 1897 CPWs), and Nottingham (issuing 543 CPNs and 2714 CPWs).

There has been a nearly 30% fall in the number of CPNs issued since 2018, which is a welcome development. However, there is still worrying evidence that CPNs are being issued for trivial matters, and over-used compared to other relevant powers.

3. What were CPNs/CPWs issued for in 2020-2?

The most common subject of CPNs/CPWs was messy gardens, with councils also commonly issuing orders targeting bird feeding, begging, and barking dogs. In addition, four councils issued CPNs/CPWs for TV volume, seven issued orders for shouting/swearing, and three for loitering.

Number of councilsSubject of CPN/CPW
10bird feeding
14barking dogs
5breach of covid-19 regulations
35messy/overgrown gardens
16 neighbour disputes
9 repairing vehicles on the road
4TV volume
4breach of PSPO
5Japanese knotweed
9 Cannabis use

Download a full dataset of CPNs issued in 2020-2

Criminalising the trivial

We asked councils about the subject of their CPN. A small number of issued CPNs appeared to be targeting acts of significant nuisance and harm. These included allowing noxious fumes to escape from premises, and serious ASB such as throwing bottles of urine into a neighbour’s garden.

However, many councils issued CPNs and CPWs for what appeared to be minor or trivial issues. These included Sunderland Council, who issued a CPN/CPW for allotment management, and Medway, who issued one for DIY. North Kesteven issued orders for nesting pigeons, while King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Council issued CPNs for cockerels, and Ceredigion issued orders for chicken keeping. Warrington issued a CPN to stop noise from deliveries, and Islington issued an order for ‘depositing bird seed’.

Sefton Council issued an order banning children from using leather footballs in the playground, requiring the school to:

Ensure that children are always supervised by members of staff in the playground – including and in particular ‘cooling off ‘periods. Not to allow the students to use heavy leather footballs and only use light flyway or foam footballs in the playground.

Shropshire and Ceredigion councils issued CPNs or CPWs for buskers. South Staffordshire issued orders for the revving of car engines, and Chesterfield issued them for parking. Dartford issued 162 CPWs for ‘general nuisance/annoyance’, while South Cambridgeshire issued CPNs/CPWs for high hedges.

In 2021-2, North Devon Council issued a CPN to ‘control sound level of music at pub’. In 2020-1, Mendip Council issued a CPW and then a CPN to someone for ‘chalk markings’ that it said were causing ‘alarm and distress’. Conwy Council issued a CPN to someone for ‘shouting, swearing and ranting about God’. Spelthorne issued a CPN in 2021-2 ‘for continually removing recycled textiles from Spelthorne Bring sites’. Greenwich Council issued CPNs for ‘anti-social use of an amplifier’ and for ‘causing harassment, alarm and distress by loitering’.

Meanwhile, several councils used CPNs or CPWs to target homeless people. Sunderland used 3 CPWs and 2 CPNs to target ‘bin raking’, while Bristol Council used CPNs to bar homeless people from certain areas.

In total, 23 councils issued CPNs or CPWs targeting begging, including Canterbury and Preston. Woking said that it issued a CPN in the year 2021-2, preventing a person from entering a designated area after repeated begging. Horsham Council issued a CPN (and two CPWs) for ‘occupying the town as destitute’.

Some councils used CPNs to impose significant restrictions on the recipient’s freedom of movement, for example banning them from an area of town. Horsham issued a CPN for ‘breach of a banning notice’, while Central Bedfordshire issued 10 CPNs in 2020-1 requiring people ‘not to enter specific area/shop’.

Trivialising the Criminal

On the other hand, some councils issued CPNs in cases where there appears to be a criminal law or other regulation that could have been applied.

Newark Council issued CPNs for ‘missing/incorrect dog microchip details’, which is already covered by other legislation. A number of councils issued CPNs for bin/waste offences, which are also covered by other powers. Gravesham Council issued CPNs/CPWs for putting out waste early or late or failing to comply with recycling rules. South Holland Council used orders for early presentation of domestic waste, while Colchester Council issued orders for exceeding the bag limit. Other CPNs duplicated pre-existing restrictions on breaches of covid-19 regulations, littering, fly tipping and the enforcement of Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs).

In some cases CPNs appear to be used to target more serious incidents, which can trivialise criminal activity and bypass the proper investigation and conviction of criminal offences. Blackpool Council said that it had issued a CPN for ‘domestic abuse’, while BCP Council used CPNs/CPWs for ‘drug related issues including cuckooing’. Sandwell Council issued a CPW for vandalism and a CPN for assault/violence, and two CPNs for ‘criminal activity’. 10 councils used CPNs or CPWs to target drug use/drug paraphernalia.

Two CPNs issued by South Kesteven Council show how the same legal order is being used to target criminal and non-criminal behaviour. The first CPN prohibited:

Taking drugs, in a public open space in view of CCTV cameras in the stairwell of a Multi Storey Car Park. This behaviour is causing Harassment, Alarm and Distress to lawful users of the Multi Storey Car Park.

The second CPN prohibited:

Entering the boundary of {named location} including sitting on the boundary wall, this is having a detrimental impact on the quality of lives of others.

Here, taking drugs in public and sitting on a wall are tackled with the same legal order.

4. Are councils obeying the law on reviewing CPNs?

A judgement in the legal case Stannard v CPS found that local authorities should have a process for considering written requests to amend or withdraw CPNs. The judgement stated that:

(*) (T)here is a power for an authorised person to revoke or vary a CPN, as well as issue one. If an affected person sends written representations to such an authorised person with a reasoned case that the CPN is inappropriate…the authorised person will have to consider those representations when considering the exercise of his discretion as to whether to retain, or revoke or vary, the notice…. (W)e would think it a minimum that such persons should operate a system for receiving and adjudicating requests for variation or discharge of CPNs; and that relevant information should briefly be given with any CPN about how to seek a variation or discharge…. (Judgement in Stannard vs CPS)

We asked local authorities if they had a procedure for considering formal requests to amend or withdraw a CPN. 257 councils were able to provide this information. The vast majority – 169 councils – said that they had no procedure for considering written requests. Only 41 councils said that they had a procedure for reviewing written requests to revoke/amend CPNs, although not all of these provided the information on the CPN. A further 40 councils said that they would consider any applications on case by case basis.

This is important because at present there are severe problems with the statutory legal appeal process. Appellants lack legal aid and often face expensive council lawyers, placing them at risk of high costs claims if they lose. We are in touch with a CPN recipient in Derbyshire who is dyslexic; he has no legal assistance and the council is bringing a lawyer up from London, on which it has spent in excess of £7,000 pre-trial. This is not a fair legal contest.

The right to submit a written request for withdrawal or variation of a CPN could provide an alternative route of appeal. We therefore urge councils to set up systems for considering requests, and include this information on the text of issued CPNs.

5. Conclusion

This report shows that CPNs targeting trivial incidents continue to be issued in significant numbers. A smaller number of CPNs are being issued for serious incidents that fall under other parts of the criminal law.

It is our view that CPNs should be scrapped. We are not convinced that there is a need for a separate notice in addition to the civil injunction and statutory nuisance powers. It is our view that the vast majority of CPNs are unnecessary, or would be better pursued through alternative legal avenues.

We recognise that some local authorities and Community Safety trainers are attempting to limit and guide the use of CPNs to ensure that they are used proportionately. While the power remains, we support efforts to ensure that it is subject to due process and standards of proportionality that would be expected from any other part of the criminal law. To this end, we have developed guidance for local authorities, seeking to introduce due process and proportionality into this ‘cowboy’ power.

In the short term, it is essential that local authorities abide by the requirements in Stannard v CPS to create a clear and accessible system for considering written requests to amend or withdraw CPNs. Such a system could help to check the over-use and inappropriate use of this power while awaiting a more substantial review.


  • We are grateful to the Nigel Vinson Charitable Trust, and the Institute for Policy Research, for contributing funding to support this publication.