Family with autistic children issued with legal order for ‘slamming door’

One council has issued a legal order to a family ordering them not to ‘slam doors’.

The family has two autistic children, and so leaving the house can be something of a challenging business. Yet the council issued them with a Community Protection Notice ordering them to ‘make sure that when you close the door you do in a way that does not disturb others’. When the family pressed a council officer for specification, he suggested that they close the door with both hands. When the father said that he needed one hand to hold a child, the council was unsympathetic.

The Community Protection Notice power was created to deal with significant anti-social behaviour that is creating nuisance and harm in communities. It cannot surely have been intended to target families with disabled children, specifying the manner in which they close their front door.

Yet the council has devoted significant resources to the issue – including making recordings of the family’s door closing, and engaging its legal team to issue a series of legal orders.

After the family appealed the CPN, the council said that it had decided to withdraw it on a technicality, but would be considering issuing further CPNs in the future. The family is now in limbo, fearful of new legal orders that could be issued.

This case shows the lack of controls and checks in the use of the CPN power, and the widespread non-observance of Statutory Guidance that states that CPNs should be only issued in instances of ‘nuisance or harm’, rather than for ‘a behaviour that others may just find annoying’.

There is an urgent need for local authority procedures to check the use of this power, ensuring a draft order is subject to scrutiny and a ‘public interest’ test before being issued. There is also a need for recipients of CPNs to have more options for mediation and appeal, so that their side of the case can be heard without the need for risky and expensive court cases.

Such trivial and ill-founded orders should not be allowed to progress to full legal status, causing significant stress and worry to law-abiding members of the public.