General Statement of Enforcement Policy

1.0 Introduction

This General Statement of Enforcement Policy is at the core of our commitment to the provision of excellent services and the adoption of best practice in everything that we do. It sets out common principles that we will follow in all our enforcement work.

The Council has a key role to play in supporting local economic prosperity, and community and individual well-being. Fair and effective enforcement is essential to this and ensures that we protect the health, safety and quality of life of all those who live, visit and work in South Tyneside as well as ensuring that our businesses are robust and legally compliant and that the Borough's environment is adequately protected.

This policy applies to all enforcement activity undertaken by or on behalf the Council that affects members of the public, the business community and the environment. For many of our enforcement services, detailed policies and procedures relating specifically to that service area are also in place.

Often a decision about enforcement action has implications for many people, either directly or indirectly. We want all our stakeholders to fully understand the actions that we take and see that we are consistent, transparent, accountable, proportionate and targeted in our approach.

South Tyneside Council formally adopted the Concordat on Good Enforcement in March 1998 which sets out standards for fair and proportionate enforcement.

In addition the Council is now bound by the Regulators Compliance Code which was given legal effect by the Legislative and Regulatory Reform (Regulatory Functions) Order 2007 and promotes efficient and effective approaches to its regulatory enforcement functions and improvement to the outcome of regulation without imposing unnecessary burdens.

2.0 What is Enforcement?

Enforcement is action taken to make sure that legal requirements are adhered to and it is carried out against a background of a wide range of rules and powers for which the Council has responsibility. Areas covered by these rules and powers include Planning and Building Control, Environmental Health, Anti-social Behaviour, Trading Standards and Licensing, Streetscene, and Children and Young People's services.

Enforcement does not just mean taking formal action, such as prosecution, but includes checking to make sure that things are as they should be and giving help and advice to businesses and individuals so that they can meet relevant rules and regulations.

We recognise that most members of the public, business owners, and their employees want to abide by the law. We will assist and advise wherever possible. However we will take firm action against those who disregard legal requirements or act irresponsibly.

Our enforcement activities include:

  • Investigating issues and complaints
  • Watching, listening and monitoring
  • Examining documents, goods and other materials
  • Talking to witnesses
  • Conducting interviews
  • Checking buildings and land
  • Carrying out inspections
  • Testing equipment or goods
  • Taking samples and making test purchases
  • Wherever possible we arrange our activities at dates and times to meet the needs of our customers

In order that we can check things from the point of view of a customer or member of the public, we may sometimes carry out informal visits and not introduce ourselves.

Where we have to use a young person to carry out work on our behalf, such as in checking sales of age restricted products, we will always give consideration to the latest codes of best practice.

3.0 Our Approach

3.1 Standards

We consult with the public and businesses about the services we provide and our enforcement approach in relation to these services. We set out clearly the levels of service and performance that our customers can expect to receive. We publish our Service Standards, which are available in the major ethnic languages.

3.2 Openness

We provide accessible information and advice, wherever possible in plain language, on legislation that we enforce. We will be open about how we set about our work, any charges for our services, and explain in a timely manner when it is necessary to take enforcement action.

3.3 Helpfulness

We believe that prevention is better than cure and we will actively work to advise and assist in compliance with the law. Our staff will be courteous and efficient, will identify themselves by name where appropriate, and will show identification. We will offer a contact point and telephone number for any further help.

3.3 A Balanced Approach

We will work with our customers to help them meet their legal obligations without unnecessary expense. Advice will be put clearly and simply, include any time scales and will be confirmed in writing. Legal requirements will be clearly distinguished from best practice advice. We will ensure that enforcement action we take or remedial action we require is reasonably proportionate to the problem.

3.4 Consistency

We will carry out our duties in a fair and consistent way. We have arrangements in place to promote consistency, including liaison with other Local Authorities and other agencies, particularly where we may share an enforcement role.

4.0 Enforcement principles

The Council will ensure that enforcement decisions are always consistent, balanced, fair and relate to common standards that ensure the public and the environment are adequately protected. We will apply sanctions and penalties according to the following principles which:

  • Aim to change the behaviour of the offender
  • Aim to eliminate financial gain or benefit from non-compliance
  • Be responsive and consider what is appropriate for the particular offender and offence
  • Be proportionate to the nature of the offence and the harm caused
  • Aim to repair the harm done by the offence where appropriate
  • Aim to deter/prevent non compliance in the future

Every case is unique and must be considered on its own facts and merits. However, when making decisions we take account of the advice of the advice set out in the Director of Public Prosecution's Code for Crown Prosecutors. These are some of the general public interest principles that apply to the way in which we approach each case.

The seriousness of the alleged offence.

Relevant past record.

The willingness to prevent a recurrence of the problem or put right harm.

Whether the offence was carried out deliberately or with reckless disregard of the law.

Having considered all relevant information, there is a range of enforcement options available to deal with legislative failings:

  • No Action
  • Informal Action
  • Formal Warning
  • Statutory Notice
  • Simple Caution
  • Prosecution
  • Works in default
  • Injunctions
  • Orders e.g. Anti-Social Behaviour or Management Orders
  • Other formal action e.g. seizure, recovery action
  • Civil proceedings

More detailed information on options relevant for specific offences is provided in relevant service specific enforcement policies.

Before we take formal enforcement action, there will be an opportunity to discuss the circumstances of a case, unless immediate action is required (e.g. to prevent destruction of evidence , or where there is an imminent risk to health and safety or the built or natural environment).

Where immediate action is taken, reasons for such action will be given at the time and then confirmed in writing, in most cases within 5 working days, and in all cases within 10 working days.

Where there are rights of appeal against enforcement action, notification of the appeal mechanism will be clearly set out in writing.

We fully acknowledge and endorse the rights of individuals and will ensure that all enforcement action takes place in strict accordance with the Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (as amended) the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996, the Human Rights Act 1998, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and other relevant legislation and guidance.

Where there is a shared enforcement function (e.g with the Environment Agency, Natural England, Fire and Rescue Service), officers will notify the relevant enforcement agency of any breach for which that agency is responsible.

Where the Council and another enforcement agency each have powers of enforcement, we will liaise with that other agency to ensure effective co-ordination, having regard to the respective legislation, to avoid inconsistencies, and to ensure that the most appropriate action is taken to resolve any breach.

5.0 Decision Making - Authorisation

The Council will ensure that its officers who are authorised to initiate enforcement action are competent to do so, are suitably qualified and trained, and have relevant and adequate experience in enforcement.

All authorised officers will abide by the policy when making enforcement decisions. Any departure from the policy must be exceptional, capable of justification and be fully considered by relevant local managers before the decision is taken, unless it is considered that there is significant risk to the public in delaying.

6.0 Assistance From the Public or Other Organisations

Assistance of others is often crucial to the success of enforcement action by the Council. Where information is given to assist the Council's enforcement, we will treat such information with confidence unless it is necessary to use it in court or at an appeal when the information will be made public. In such a case, we will seek the individual's consent before making it public.

7.0 Equality and Diversity

We believe in equality of opportunity for all people. When making enforcement decisions we will ensure that there is no discrimination against any individual(s) on the grounds of age, race, ethnic or national origin, nationality, religion and belief, gender, marital status, employment status, disability, sexual orientation, social class, responsibility for children or dependents, trade union membership, unrelated criminal convictions or any ground that cannot be justified.

The Council will make sure that its services, facilities and resources are accessible and responsive to the people and communities of the Borough.

We understand that some members of the community may have specific difficulties, which will need extra advice and assistance. Careful explanation will be given and if necessary the services of an interpreter may be used. We will work in accordance with the Councils' Race Equality Scheme. If requested, we will ensure that appropriate materials and documents are translated into the principal black and minority ethnic languages and asylum seeker languages. Practical help is provided for people with impaired hearing, vision or other impairment.

8.0 Complaints

All complaints will be dealt with in accordance with the Council's Corporate Complaints procedure. An information leaflet which explains the process is available from the Council's Customer Services Centres and from our website.

9.0 Review

As part of our review process, checks will be carried out at least once each year to make sure that this policy continues to reflect best practice and see how well we are meeting our commitments.

10.0 Further Information

Further information regarding service specific enforcement policies and procedures can be obtained from individual service areas or from the Council's website.

The Code for Crown Prosecutors is available online.