Birkenhead MP Frank Field calls for residents to trigger arrests of yobs

RESIDENTS could trigger the arrest of yobs terrorising their neighbourhood even if the police refused to act, under plans set out by a Mersey MP.

Birkenhead MP Frank Field called for a 1361 law – allowing local people to demand that a court issue a warrant – to be revived to fight the modern-day scourge of anti-social behaviour.

Under the ancient statute, offenders were brought before magistrates on the very day that neighbours complained, to stamp out the problem before it escalated.

The radical idea is the latest proposal put forward by Mr Field, who once called for “neighbours from hell” to be housed together in a concrete bunker under an M53 flyover.

The Labour backbencher helped inspire Tony Blair's 'Respect' agenda, which included stripping the worst neighbours of housing benefit for up to five years.

Explaining his latest plan, Mr Field said the police now had the powers they needed to deal with serious crime, but still failed to act on complaints of less-serious offending.

The price was paid by working-class communities who struggled to convince "largely middle-class officials, not only of their plight, but also of the need to take effective action".

Mr Field said: "We now need to empower residents to take action against yobbish behaviour before it escalates into serious crime.

"A century ago, disputes in working-class neighbourhoods were often settled informally before the magistrate.

“It is this system we need to revive.
"A 1361 statute allows aggrieved parties to ask for warrants to be issued and for offenders to be brought before the court that day. This private action would restore the idea that communities should be self-governing.

"Decent people who have tried to persuade offenders to behave would know that they could go into the local court and seek action that day.

“The power in local communities would swing away from the yob and towards the decent citizen."

Mr Field said the weakness in the current system was that magistrates were unable to order police to arrest offenders "even if a whole road turns up to complain".

The call comes just two weeks after Gordon Brown appointed a new Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, to replace Jacqui Smith, who quit over the expenses scandal.

Some senior Labour figures are urging the Prime Minister to return to the hardline approach of the Respect agenda – fearing the Tories have seized an advantage on the issue.

Mr Field published a book, entitled Neighbours From Hell – The Politics Of Behaviour, which called for people’s benefits cash to be linked to "acceptable behaviour".

Wirral was among the first eight local authorities given the power to withdraw housing benefit, but the scheme has been little-used since.