Thames magistrates ‘close’ block of flats in Bethnal Green to stop drug-users
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An entire block of flats has been shut down in Bethnal Green to outsiders on the unprecedented order of east London magistrates after it was plagued by drug users.
One suspect has already been arrested and kept in custody for breaching the closure order issued on Friday.
Thames Magistrates agreed to the ‘closure’ of Bentworth Court in Granby Street, off Brick Lane, the first-ever order by the court for a whole block.
It follows months of complaints about drugs, rough sleeping and defecating and urinating in the public areas.
Police applied for the unique order to keep out “anyone without lawful reason” after talks with Tower Hamlets Council and the landlords, Tower Hamlets Homes.
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“This is a new way to tackle drug use anti-social behaviour,” Police Insp Darren Baxter said. “Families in Bentworth Court are vulnerable due to age or disability. This order will improve life for them.”
Anyone who does not have “a lawful reason” for the next three months to be in the public areas around the block and commits anti-social behaviour could be fined or imprisoned for up to three months or both.
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Previous orders by Thames magistrates have covered just single flats or property, but never an entire block.
Mayor John Biggs fired a warning shot to drug users to keep out of Bentworth Court.
He said: “We are sending the message that it is not okay to behave in a way that badly impacts on others. We are maximising our powers to stamp out crime and anti-social behaviour.”
The tenants were said to be supporting the closure notice during consultation about its implications leading up to the court application.
Tower Hamlets Homes applied for the tough measure “as a last resort”. The housing organisation’s Susmita Sen said: “We had to find a way to stop residents’ lives being made a misery by people who don’t live in the block.”
Closure notices under the 2014 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act can be used in a specific area which is experiencing disorder or where disorder is anticipated.
An application can be made to extend the order for another three months at any time before it expires if the residents fear a return of the drug users and rough sleepers on their doorstep.