Victims of arbitrary power: CPN Case Studies


Community Protection Notices (CPNs) give powers to police and local authorities to impose legal restrictions on individuals, banning them from certain activities or requiring them to do certain things. These notices can be written out on the spot, on the basis of an officer’s opinion that somebody’s conduct has had a ‘detrimental effect’ on the ‘quality of life of those in the locality’.

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. It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with a CPN, which can be punished by an on-spot fine of £100, or on prosecution a fine of up to £2500 (for individuals) or £20,000 (for businesses).

There is no requirement for the officer to talk to the person first or to establish the evidence against them. Appeal systems are poor and inaccessible for the vast majority of people.

For a summary of CPNs and the problem with them, see our CPNs Campaign Page. For our recommendations on how CPNs could be reformed, see our Guidance for Local Authorities.

Victimised by Arbitrary Power

The aim of Community Protection Notices was to give council and police officials more freedom to help the ‘victims of anti-social behaviour’. Having worked on CPNs since their introduction in 2014, we have been contacted by dozens of CPN recipients over the years. Our experience of talking to a wide variety of CPN recipients has taught us that the use of CPNs is often the direct opposite to that intended.

Rather than being used to protect victims, we find that CPNs and CPWs are often used in campaigns of victimisation – either by neighbours making malicious accusations, or by officials with a grudge against a member of the public. As often as not, it is the CPN recipient who lives in fear, fearing not only the complainant who is making their life a misery, but also authorities who, for personal or other reasons, have taken the complainant’s side.

The case studies in this document are a small selection of those we have been involved in over the years. We receive emails from CPN recipients almost every week; most are distressed, anxious, and unable to get legal support or to get officials to listen to their side of events.

The problem with the CPN power is that it comes with an unprecedented lack of legal or procedural protection. The open-ended nature of CPNs means that people can have very broad, or very minute, restrictions imposed upon them. In some cases, the order simply imposes a broad restriction such as that they must not cause nuisance to their neighbours (Case study 22). A homeless person was banned from ‘loitering’ (Case study 14), a similarly impossible condition to meet.

In other cases there are minute restrictions: one man was told by his council exactly how to close his front door (Case study 1), another man was told how to fly his model aircraft by police (Case study 7), and a pensioner was told where to store his wheelbarrow in his garden (Case study 11). One lady was issued a CPN by a council officer keen to tell her how to prune her garden shrubs (Case study 12). One lady was told not to wear a bikini in her garden (Case study 9), and another not to sing in her garden (Case study 8). Several people have been told that they cannot look at their neighbours (Case study 13 and 21). Several people have been banned from feeding birds or cats in their gardens (Case studies 5, 10 and 15).

CPNs can be used to impose significant restrictions upon a person’s public or private conduct, such as banning someone from their town centre (Case studies 6 and 19).

We have found that the predominant experience of CPN and CPW recipients is one of powerlessness. What generally happens is that they receive a legal order through the letter box (or sometimes left somewhere on their property), often without any prior conversation with the issuing authorities. In one case, a CPN was delivered on Christmas eve (Case study 1); in another, it was taped to a front door (Case study 2).

The CPN or CPW recipient is often not told what the evidence is against them, or given proper information about how to appeal. In one case, a woman missed her appeal deadline because the council was unable to provide the correct information about how to appeal (Case study 4). It is common practice for officers to tell CPN recipients that ‘there is evidence against you’, without saying what this evidence is. One woman was told by police officers that they had no need to provide any information or evidence about her alleged offence (Case study 17).

If the CPN recipient makes their case and explains their actions, they often find that they are not listened to. ‘The police were not interested in my view of events’, says one woman: ‘It was clear to me that I was just being shut down.’ (Case study 17). One older lady says that, while council officers received videos from her neighbours on social media, they refused to give her an address for her to send evidence of the abuse she says that she was receiving (Case study 23).

If the CPN recipient does appeal the CPN, they will often face expensive council lawyers, without legal aid for their own legal assistance; if they lose the appeal they will be liable for council costs claims of several thousand pounds. We are in contact with a CPN recipient in northern England who is dyslexic, and at his appeal will face a barrister the council brought up from London. He told us that he felt like ‘a lamb to the slaughter. It is not a fair contest’. A lady in her 80s said that ‘the council is acting as judge and jury, with the accused not allowed to speak’ (Case study 9).

Several of these CPN case studies involve single women living alone, often elderly, who say they are being harassed by male neighbours. These male neighbours are also making accusations against them. In two of the cases below, the CPN recipient said that she had been physically assaulted or had her property damaged by the man who was making complaints about her (Case studies 4 and 17). In one other case, a family of women (a mother and two daughters) were followed, harassed and filmed by the male complainant (Case study 3), yet they were the ones who received the CPN.

The issuing of the CPN seems to often make the situation worse, as it emboldens the other party. A non-Muslim older lady, who says she was was being harassed by a large family of Muslim neighbours, says that the aggression became much worse after the notice was issued (Case study 23). The CPN recipient is often taunted, told that ‘you’re in trouble’ or that ‘they (the council/police) are on our side’, or they are called ‘asbo creatures’ (Case study 25) or ‘asbo slut’ (Case study 22).

In some cases, the council encouraged neighbours to make complaints against a person (Case study 28), or to carry out surveillance (Case study 5), thereby in fact helping to create community conflict between neighbours.

One consistent and concerning pattern is that there is often a personal connection between the complainant and the issuing authority. In some cases, the complainant works for the council or police (Case study 13, 22 and 24), or they are connected to a police officer or council (Case study 21, 25 and 27), or friends with the issuing officer (Case study 13). In two case studies, the issuing officer had a history of disputes with the CPN recipient, and appears to have been using the CPN to ‘get back’ at a member of the public (Case study 7 and 21).

In two cases below, a CPN or CPW was gained in an attempt to gain financial advantage over someone, in one case with a fraudulent liability claim (Case study 17), and in the other by gaining the closure of a rival business (Case study 13).

There is also a potential for CPNs to be used by the authorities to make their own lives easier, for example by removing those they consider troublemakers from public spaces, such as homeless people or those of particular ethnicities. In one case, police banned several young Portuguese men from Stratford in London (Case study 6), and there are several cases of homeless people being banned from areas against the wishes of local residents (Case studies 19 and 20).

Authorities have also used CPNs to censor or suppress opinions with which they disagree, such as the feminist gender rights campaigner given a CPN ordering her to remove posters from her door (Case study 26). A non-Muslim woman says that Muslim council and police officers took the side of her Muslim neighbours because they were of the same religion (Case study 23).

The point of these case studies is not to say that every CPN recipient is in the right and has done nothing wrong. Rather, it is to show the potentially dangerous consequences of unchecked powers on the lives of those who receive them. Some council and police officers use CPNs very carefully – and we know many officers and ASB trainers who insist on very high standards – but there is nothing inherent in the power to ensure that it is used fairly and proportionately.

The CPN power is intended to help victims, which is a laudable aim. And yet in practice the power has strengthened the hand of the prosecution at the expense of the defence, with dangerous consequences. Without a proper legal process, it is not at all clear who is the ‘victim’ who needs to be defended in any particular case. Lacking checks and balances, the CPN can be used as a tool by those who have power against those who do not. It becomes a tool for the bully, for the vendetta, for anyone who wants to make some else’s life difficult.

The CPN power endows officialdom with a sense of entitlement, a feeling that they can do what they like. On occasions this can go beyond the mere issuing of a legal order. In one case, a lady had her house van and caravan forcibly towed away by the council – irretrievably damaging both in the process – because she was perceived not to have met her CPN conditions (Case study 27). In other cases, CPNs or CPN breaches are used to justify an attempt to evict somebody from their home (Case study 22 and 28).

Over the years, we have lost count of the number of times we have listened to CPN recipients crying on the phone, saying that their lives have become unbearable. One man said that the CPN ‘ruins your life’ (Case study 7). In two or three cases, people have told us that they had considered suicide. Even the sturdiest CPN recipient generally reports health problems or problems sleeping.

Some people said that receiving the CPN provoked anxiety or depression, and they were driven to get mental health treatment for the first time in their lives (Case study 5 and 22). One man had a mini-stroke as a result of the stress caused by the CPN (Case study 10). In another case, a woman with bipolar disorder was provoked into a bipolar episode when the council issued a CPW; the council subsequently used this episode as reason to issue a CPN and then a breach notice (Case study 3).

These CPN case studies should remind us that legal power is a form of coercion and force, which if not moderated can be used for private and illegitimate purposes. Just because a person is a police or council officer does not guarantee that they will always act fairly in the public interest. It is only the guiding power of law and due process that civilises their conduct, and means that they act in the interests of justice.

It is worth remembering that the rights of the defence, and due process, were developed to protect those with less power from those with more. When vital checks are removed, there is a danger that powers are used for illegitimate ends. In these circumstances, it becomes the police or council officer who is ruining someone’s life, and therefore who becomes the true ‘anti-social’ figure.


1. Family with autistic children issued CPN for ‘slamming doors’

A Kent council 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 family solved the issue by moving house. Read a detailed outline of the case.

2. Pensioner issued with multiple legal orders and prosecuted for knotweed

An elderly lady in north London has been issued with multiple CPNs and CPWs, and prosecuted twice, for allegedly having Japanese knotweed on her land. Her first contact with the council was when several officers appeared and threatened to kick the door down. A neighbour making complaints about the knotweed also harasses the lady, entering her land and shouting at her and filming her and her daughters. The harassment from the council and the neighbour has left the lady sick with stress. The lady was too sick to attend her CPN appeal; she lost the appeal and had to pay £1000 costs to the council. The council has prosecuted her twice for CPN breach. Read a detailed outline of the case.

3. Council prosecutes woman for bipolar episode

A woman with bipolar disorder was issued with a Community Protection Warning (CPW) on the basis of unfounded allegations made against her by her neighbour. The stress of the CPW led the woman to have a bipolar relapse, after which the council issued her with a CPN and then a breach notice. The south-east of England council was aware of the woman’s mental health condition, which had been explained to officers in detail by her husband; he made clear that she was receiving treatment and that the condition was normally under control. The woman moved house in order to escape from the neighbour. Read a detailed outline of the case.

4. CPN for wildlife lover feeding foxes and birds

A lady has been feeding wildlife in her area for the past 8 years, particularly foxes and birds. She says that she has been harassed and threatened by two male neighbours on either side of her house. She had her cars keyed and tyres slashed. One of these neighbours submitted complaints about her feeding wildlife, which led to the council issuing her with a CPW then CPN. She struggled to find information about how to put in an appeal; although she submitted the appeal and paid the payment within time, her submission lacked some information which led to her appeal being declared out of time. She is currently being prosecuted for breaching the CPN. Read a detailed outline of her case.

5. Surveillance for feeding the birds

A lady has been issued with two CPWs for feeding birds in her garden in south-east England. She stopped feeding the birds after the first CPW, but nonetheless was issued with a second one. She keeps pigeons and her aviaries have been inspected by council environmental health officers, and she has also ordered her own pest control report which found an absence of pests. She thinks that the complaints are being driven by a man over the road. She fears that she will be issued with a CPN and says that she can hardly work or sleep. She doesn’t know why she has been targeted because there are many people in her neighbourhood who are pro-bird, and there are flocks of hundreds of pigeons on the other houses. Read a statement by the lady.

6. Banning Portuguese men from Stratford

The Metropolitan Police gave out a series of CPNs to young Portuguese men in the borough of Newham, banning them from entering Stratford, and banning them from being in a group in the entire borough of Newham. The CPNs were issued after community unrest following the death of a young Portuguese man in custody. A solicitor who defended one CPN recipient told us that there was ‘no evidence for anything that he had done’, and that the CPNs appeared to be ‘pro forma’ and were being ‘issued to crack down’ after the protests by Portuguese nationals. When the solicitors investigated, they found that 30 CPWs had been issued by Newham Police to Portuguese nationals over a 7-day period. Read the statement by the solicitors.

7. Five police notices for flying model aircraft

A man in south-west England was issued with 4 CPWs, and one CPN, for flying model aircraft from a two-acre field behind his house. The police notices included inaccurate statements about the Civil Aviation Authority guidelines, which the man tried to rectify, but the police took no notice of any evidence he produced. He suspects that the case was taken on by a police officer who he believes bears a grudge against him due to an unrelated incident. Eventually, the man was able to involve the force’s chief inspector, who visited his home and said that there was no reason he couldn’t fly his plane behind his house and that the police had no jurisdiction over the flying of model aircraft. The chief inspector said he was concerned about the way in which his officers were using CPNs, and the orders were withdrawn. Yet the episode caused the man a long period of stress, worry, and sleepless nights, which he said ‘ruins your life’. Read the man’s statement.

8. 75-year old threatened with CPW for singing in her garden during lockdown

A 75-year-old lady in Staffordshire was threatened with a CPW for singing to herself in her garden each day during lockdown, for around an hour a day. One of her neighbours complained to the police two or three times a day about her singing. The reporting neighbours were really pushing the police to issue a CPW, and police officers were on the verge of issuing one. When a more senior police officer found out about the case, he intervened to stop the CPW, and went down the route of mediation to resolve the issue. Read the police officer’s interview describing the case.

9. 81-year old banned from wearing a bikini in her own garden

An 81-year old lady was issued with a CPN by Stockport Council banning her from wearing a bikini in her garden or near the windows in her house. The notice ordered her to ‘cease from the unreasonable behaviour of standing in your window wearing only your underwear or a bikini causing intimidation and offence to (your neighours) and their visitors’. The notice also banned her from ‘watching, staring’ at the neighbouring property. The lady said that she wore her bikini inside and outside during hot weather, and that the complaints from the neighbour probably stemmed from an argument over working hours and noise from builders. She said that she found the CPN process to be very unfair: ‘the council, having received “some” complaints from another citizen, sends out the dreaded CPN. The council then acts as judge and jury while the accused is not allowed to speak.’

10. CPWs for couple feeding stray cats in garden

A man and his wife were issued with CPWs by a Police Community Support Officer, ordering them to stop feeding stray cats in their garden. This was initiated by complaints by a neighbour, who claimed that the food left for the cats was attracting flies. The man said that he generally lifted the trays when the cats had finished eating, and that nobody else complained. As a result of the CPW, he became frightened to go into the garden in case the neighbour or the police were spying on him. The stress and anxiety caused by the situation led him to have a mini-stroke. Read the man’s testimony.

11. CPW for storing a wheelbarrow behind a shed

A man received a CPW from a Kent council ordering him ‘To not engage in behaviours capable of causing a nuisance or annoyance to others in the community or to encourage others to do so.’ This came after a neighbour complained that the man’s use of the garden was a public nuisance, including complaints about his storing of a wheelbarrow behind his shed. The council officer did not investigate or ask to hear the man’s side of events, but merely issued a CPW that also included instructions on where to store the wheelbarrow in his garden. Later, a council letter arrived saying that the man had broken the restrictions without offering any evidence, and said that it was a ‘final warning’. The CPW was extended for 3 years without any evidence or new events. Eventually, the council officer retired and a new team invited the man in and apologised for events – although by this stage the couple had put their house up for sale, in no small part because of the CPW. The man said that he found it particularly frustrating that the council wouldn’t issue a CPN, which he could challenge, instead leaving him in limbo with continual CPW extensions. Read a testimony from the man’s son-in-law.

12. Woman given CPN for ‘overgrown’ garden in North-East London

A lady had a sofa dumped in her garden, and called the council to come and remove it. In the meantime, she received a letter saying that the council had received a complaint and required her to remove bulk waste and cut back ‘overgrown vegetation’ in the front and back gardens. The lady could not see anything that she considered overgrown, and so cut back a bit and hoped for the best. After the sofa had been removed, she was shocked to receive a CPW saying that the required action had not been taken, and was given another 21 days to take the appropriate action. She started cutting back her plants and breaking up objects she was attached to. Then she emailed the authorising officer, asking him what items he considered ‘overgrown’ and what actions she should take to comply. He replied with a demand that she meet him at her house so that he could explain his requirements. She said that she would like the requests in writing, but these were not forthcoming. Instead, she received a further letter saying that another complaint had been received and that the officer had ‘no choice’ but to issue a CPN. He still had not explained what items in the garden were ‘overgrown’ and what she could do to comply with the notice. Read the lady’s account of events.

13. Cafe owner banned from looking at rival cafe

Kerry Radley opened a community shop and cafe in Salhouse, Norfolk. Within 6 months a coffee shop opened next door, run by a local parish councillor. Conflict and competition between the businesses ensued. Allegations about anti-social conduct were made against Kerry Radley, with statements submitted by the friends and family of the owners of the rival cafe. Radley also reported incidents of harassment and people repeatedly stealing her signs. A joint police-council team took the side of the rival cafe. Broadland District Council issued Radley with a warning letter and then – a few weeks later – a CPN, which banned her from ‘staring directly into (the rival cafe) from any vehicle, moving or stationary’ as well as from ‘entering (the rival cafe) for any purpose’. Radley believes that the CPN was coordinated by a friend and colleague of the rival cafe owner. She says that the CPN prevented her from safely parking her vehicle in front of her own cafe, which required that she look in the prohibited direction. When she appealed the CPN, the council withdrew the notice shortly before trial and paid £1200 in costs. Radley had to close her business as a result of this episode, which she says caused her tens of thousands of pounds in losses. She is now looking to bring a legal case for compensation against the council and the police. Read a statement by Kerry Radley.

14. Homeless people banned from ‘loitering’ in London

Liberty acted as lawyers for a Bulgarian man who had been given a CPN that imposed 11 conditions, including forbidding him from pitching a tent, using a sound amplifier or making excessive noise in any public place in London. One condition was ‘not to loiter on a public road waiting for others unless waiting for a pre-arranged appointment which can be proved/confirmed at the time of waiting’. (See the text of the CPN and Liberty’s summary.) Liberty also acted as lawyers for a woman who had been given a CPN that forbade her from begging and going into a shop ‘without a valid reason’. The CPN included 14 conditions, including accusing her of ‘loitering in a public place that has leaves (sic) an impact on others’ and ‘Not to be anywhere on (NAMED PLACE) with (sic) a medial (sic) appointment or pre-arranged appointment’. (See the text of the CPN). Both CPNs were withdrawn when Liberty challenged them.

15. CPN for feeding birds in the garden

A pensioner in Great Yarmouth was issued with a CPN for feeding birds in his garden. He said that the accusations of bird feeding were made by a neighbour, a lady who was notorious for making false allegations about people. The council acted on her complaints and sent the man a series of threatening letters. Aside from one visit, the council has never spoken to the man about the issue. He has fed the birds in his garden for 25 years, and says that he does not feed excessively or specifically feed the gulls. The council issued a CPN that specified that his bird feeding must be ‘limited to scattering small amounts of crumbs and seed’. He appealed the notice in court on a series of grounds, and gained its withdrawal. The man says that the long process of appealing the notice took its toll on his health, with lack of sleep and general distress worsening a number of health problems. His complainant neighbour still makes complaints about his bird feeding, and he recently saw a council officer sitting in a car outside his house videoing his back garden. Read the man’s statement.

16. Lady gets CPN for parties on nights she wasn’t even home.

A young lady in northern England found out about her CPN prosecution when her case was reported in a local newspaper. The council gave a statement to the press saying that she was a noisy neighbour who ‘simply has no consideration for others’; the press article reported that she had been fined £860 for CPN breach. The CPN breach notice had been delivered to her old address and she had not been aware of any of the legal proceedings, and so the breach hearing had been held in her absence. The CPN was the result of an ongoing neighbour dispute with the couple next door, which led to the couple reporting her to the council for having loud parties. The young lady also says that the CPN issuing officer was someone she had known as a teenager, and she believes that the officer had personal motivations for pursuing the case. In fact, the young lady was actually out at a concert on one of the nights she was alleged to be having a party. On another night of an alleged party her landlord visited and found that she had a few friends around who were talking and playing music at a reasonable volume. She obtained statements from her other neighbours testifying that she was a good neighbour and had never caused any problems. The Manifesto Club managed to find a local barrister who represented her at a pre-trial hearing; the judge found that it was not in the public interest to continue with the CPN or the prosecution.

17. CPW when woman’s dog ran up to another dog

A woman in south-east England was issued with a CPW when her dog ran across to play with another dog. The CPW alleges that her dog is an unpredictable and out-of-control dog, who is a problem to the community. The woman says that the CPW stems from one man’s false accusations that her dog attacked his dog and himself. In the incident, she lost hold of her dog’s lead for a few seconds – after she slipped over – and when she reached her dog the man concerned was punching her dog, and also began to punch her, while she and the dog were trapped on the ground offering no resistance. She believes that the man’s false accusations are motivated by an attempt to gain financial compensation for a dog attack; he has repeatedly hassled her for money after the incident. She has explained her side of events to the police, but they have told her they are not interested in her account and accused her of calling them liars. She has never been provided with any medical or other evidence that any attack took place. The CPW requires her dog to be muzzled at all times. Read the statement from the woman.

19. Homeless man given CPN barring him from his area of Bristol

A 36-year old homeless man, who has alcohol, drug and mental health problems, was issued with a CPN banning him from begging. The CPN also banned him from the Gloucester Road area of Bristol where he is based. The man has been homeless for 3 years, and has built up connections in the area, including members of the public who give him donations and others who offer him a place to stay when they can. When the man failed to comply with the CPN he was issued with a breach notice, and the police additionally applied for a Criminal Behaviour Order that would ban him from Gloucester Road for three years. The CBO application was eventually withdrawn, but the man was ordered to pay court fees. The court process put him under significant stress, which did not help his situation. We were informed about this by a journalist from the Bristol Cable who worked on the case; read the full write up here.

20. Nottingham resident given CPN forcing him to clear homeless man off his land

A homeless man pitched his tent on a parcel of land next to a Nottingham resident’s garage. The tent was barely visible from the road, and neither the resident nor any of his neighbours made any comment or complaint. Council Community Protection Officers issued the resident with a CPN, ordering him to clear the tent from his land within a week. The resident believes that the local authority wanted the homeless man out of the area, and were targeting him accordingly. The resident did not want to remove the tent, since he felt that this was immoral, but eventually dismantled it before the deadline so as not to be in breach of the legal order. Read the resident’s statement here.

21. Seaside couple banned from looking at their neighbours

Nigel and Sheila Jacklin were issued with a CPW after a dispute with their neighbours about building works and other issues. The CPW prohibited the Jacklins from going to the beach near their house, being perceived to be looking into any other property in the village, and making complaints about their neighbours. The Jacklins believe that the police action is being driven by a village resident who is a Metropolitan Police officer (his wife is a Sussex Police officer), who Sheila reported for harassing her before the neighbour dispute began. The Jacklins were subjected to a three-hour police interview, during which they were asked why they loitered on the beach and why they took different routes home from the beach on a specific day. Lacking any means of appealing the CPW, the couple launched a Judicial Review against the council and the police. The police dropped the CPW before it went to court. The couple said that the case was ‘devastating’ for them and incurred significant financial costs. Read a full outline here.

22. Woman spends over £10,000 trying to fight unreasonable CPN

A woman in Hackney has been subjected to multiple Community Protection Notices, as a result of a dispute with certain neighbours in which the council took the neighbours’ side. The council’s first CPN gave her only one day to rectify a list of allegations, such as a flashing fairy light, a plastic croaking frog, and smells from cooking food. She spent over £10,000 on legal fees attempting to appeal this notice, with a donation of £3,000 from supportive neighbours. When she was served with a noise abatement notice she engaged an environmental health expert on the council’s directions. However, the council ignored the evidence she presented, instead issuing her with another CPN. The woman considers that she has been subjected to harassment and bullying by both her neighbours and council authorities, at grave cost to her physical and mental health. Read a full outline here.

23. Non-Muslim lady under siege from Muslim family is targeted by CPN

A single older non-Muslim lady has entered into a dispute with a large Muslim family of council tenants that live next door. The woman says that she experienced harassment, abuse, threats and sexual gestures from the neighbours for several years. She complained to the council about the harassment and noise from the neighbours. When council officers came around, they immediately took the side of her neighbours. She says that the council and police officers are all Muslim, and that they have told her to stop making complaints about the neighbours because ‘they are my religion’. She says that council and police officers only come to her door to shout and threaten her; they do not listen to her side of events. They spend a long time in the neighbours’ flat and take all their allegations at face value. Read a full outline here.

24. Man given CPN for banging on window of car about to hit him

A 75-year old man says that he is the victim of continual provocation and false allegations by his neighbours, one of whom is a police officer. On one occasion, a neighbour was reversing out of her driveway without looking, and nearly ran over and injured the man. The man reacted by banging on her window. This act of banging on her window was taken as justification for issuing a CPN against him. He said that his report of this incident is on the Police National Computer but was ignored. He desired to appeal the CPN but was unable to do so due to undergoing hospital investigations for a possible terminal illness at the time. He is still attempting to get justice from the police. Read the man’s statement.

25. Wife of terminally ill man issued CPW banning her from leaning over the fence

A 60-year-old couple retired to a house in Devon; the husband has severe Parkinson’s Disease. From arrival they were harassed by their adjoining neighbour, who is convinced that the boundary fence and wall belong to him. This neighbour is manipulative and has managed to get other neighbours on board and so the couple are now entirely isolated. The wife was issued with a CPW based on malicious allegations, which bans her from calling ‘cuckoo’ or ‘fuckoo’, as well as from leaning over the fence and staring at the neighbours. If the couple reports abuse to the police these reports are ignored, while the reports from the neighbours are listened to. The couple feels under siege, unable to use certain rooms in their house and unable to maintain their property. The husband’s illness has been greatly worsened by the stress. Read a statement from the lady.

26. Women’s rights campaigner ordered to remove posters from her front door

For several years a pensioner in London has been displaying posters on her front door. She is a women’s rights campaigner, and the posters raise issues such as the entry of men into women-only spaces and sexual surgery for teenage girls. The police have visited her house several times and told her that she is not committing a hate crime. Yet now the council has issued her with a CPN, saying that her posters are ‘hate speech’ and ‘having a detrimental effect on the public and the LGBT community’. The CPN orders her to remove the posters immediately. The woman says that some members of the public agree with her posters, and that people have rung her doorbell to congratulate her. She thinks that the council disagrees with her views on sex and gender and is using the CPN to silence her. She is seeking to appeal the notice. Read the lady’s statement.

27. Council seized woman’s ‘house van’ when she failed to comply with CPN.

A West of England Council issued a woman with a CPN ordering her to remove her house van from her own private land. The woman had been living in the van while maintaining and caring for 12th-century church ruins, a site that had been purchased by her late husband. The council thought that she wasn’t looking after the ruins, and took advantage of her absence during lockdown to issue her with a CPN. When she did not comply with the notice, the council decided that it had the right to seize her van and caravan, rip out her gate and fence, and dig a three-foot trench to prevent her from gaining access to her property. A subsequent trial for CPN breach found that the CPN had not been legally issued, but by this stage much of her property had been destroyed. The lady’s van and caravan were damaged in the removal process and are now uninhabitable. The lady claimed damages against the council in a confidential settlement. She estimates that the case cost the council £20,000. Read the lady’s statement.

28. Council pursues terminally ill woman for feeding pigeons in her garden

A terminally ill lady made complaints about illegal building work in the block of council flats where she had lived for 30 years. However, when the council visited her flats to investigate, they instead started initiating a CPN against her for feeding pigeons in her garden. The lead ASB officer apparently contacted her neighbours and encouraged them to submit complaints about her pigeon feeding. The lady and her friends believed that this action was a response to her complaints about illegal building, and that it was part of a campaign to discredit her. The lady became very ill; through the last years of her life the council continued to pursue her with the CPN, insisting on visits and court action despite her many hospital appointments and being bed bound. She was forced to attend court hearings with her oxygen tank in a shopping trolley. The last time her friend spoke she had two broken bones in her spine and was experiencing great difficulty with her breathing. The council were still trying to evict her. (Read a testimony by a friend.)

29. Pensioners threatened with CPN for talking to son in driveway

A 78- and 80-year old couple had lived in their house in south-east England for over 50 years. Trouble began when a new neighbour moved next door. The couple reported the neighbour’s anti-social behaviour to the police on several occasions, but nothing was done. Out of the blue, during the covid pandemic, the couple received a letter from the council headed ‘Anti-social behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014’, which referred to a complaint of ‘alleging nuisance caused by noise’, relating to ‘large groups gathering at the front of your property speaking in raised voices on a regular basis causing distress to your neighbours’. The letter stated that the council would be monitoring the property and may issue a CPN. The couple believed that the complaint arose because of occasional visits by their son and his family during the pandemic; their son’s family would talk to them from their driveway to comply with social distancing rules. Although the CPN investigation was dropped four months later, the situation left the couple feeling unsafe, criminalised, and unable to use their garden. They felt that the only way to resolve the problem was to sell the home in which they had lived for 53 years. (Read a longer account of the case, provided by Andrea Fraser from JUSTICE).

Further case studies: (after the publication of this report)

30. Elderly pensioner issued CPN for alleged ‘banging on ceiling’

31. Imprisoned for feeding the pigeons

32. Hotel owner issued CPW for non-existent dog fouling

33. CPW for allowing leaves to drift on to neighbour’s drive


Funding was received from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust has supported this work in recognition of the importance of the issue. The facts presented and the views expressed in this report are, however, those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Trust.