Laughing gas to be banned as government plans crackdown on anti-social behaviour

26 March 2023, 11:00 | Updated: 27 March 2023, 08:39

Offenders will also be made to clean up crimes in jumpsuits
Offenders will also be made to clean up crimes in jumpsuits. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The government has announced nitrous oxide - known as laughing gas - is to be banned as the government prepares a crackdown on crime.

Michael Gove said the UK Government plans to ban the sale of laughing gas to stop public areas being turned into drug-taking "arenas".

The Communities Secretary, asked on the Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme whether nitrous oxide would be banned, said: "Yes.

"I think any of us who have had the opportunity to walk through our parks in our major cities will have seen these little canisters, these silver canisters which are examples of people not only despoiling public spaces but also people taking a drug which can have a psychological and neurological affect and one that contributes to anti-social behaviour overall."

He said ministers had not yet decided at what drug classification level laughing gas would be set at.

Mr Gove added: "We want to make sure the sale and use can be restricted for its appropriate purpose.

Michael Gove
Michael Gove. Picture: Getty

It comes as Rishi Sunak is set to announce a plan on Monday that will see victims of antisocial behaviour having a say in how the culprits are punished as part of a Government crackdown on crime and vandalism.

Heralding the new package, the PM is expected to pledge to put "community justice" would be at its heart.

It will mean victims and residents have a say in what punishments are handed out, such as vandals being put to work in jumpsuits or hi-viz jackets while they publicly clean up their crimes.

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday ahead of the plan's publication, Mr Sunak said: "The community fightback starts now."

Under the plans, on-the-spot fines for fly-tippers will jump from £400 to £1,000, while those caught littering or spraying graffiti face fines of £500 - currently capped at £150.

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Police may also be given powers to perform drugs tests and people arrested for anti-social behaviour offences drugs tested as part of a "hotspot" policing strategy.

Mr Sunak said: "Dropping litter, fly-tipping and graffitiing show an unacceptable lack of respect for everyone else in a community. While many up and down the country work so hard to make communal areas such as high streets, town squares and parks look beautiful, a small minority tarnish them through their selfish, thoughtless actions. It's not right and it's not fair.

Heralding the new package, the PM is expected to pledge to put "community justice" would be at its heart.
Heralding the new package, the PM is expected to pledge to put "community justice" would be at its heart. Picture: Alamy

"Women and girls should feel safe walking home at night. Parents should feel able to let their children play without fear. Everyone should be able to feel pride in the area they call home.

"So we will give police the powers they need to tackle this scourge and Mail on Sunday readers will get a chance to have their say over what punishments they think fit the crimes.

"To those who inflict this blight, let me warn you: the community fightback starts now."

The new approach is expected to be trialled in ten areas before being rolled out across England and Wales in 2024.

It comes after Labour pledged last year to create "community and victim payback boards" to strengthen community and victim involvement in sentencing, stop more serious offending, and bring down antisocial behaviour.

Packaging litter and food waste is spread across the pavement in a Cricklewood side street, on 6th March 2023, in London, England.
Packaging litter and food waste is spread across the pavement in a Cricklewood side street, on 6th March 2023, in London, England. Picture: Alamy

It's thought the new measures are being brought into ensure that crimes are more quickly and visibly punished, with the aim that offenders will begin work within 48 hours of being handed punishments.

They will also come alongside an expansion of the "Community Payback" scheme, under which more serious offenders are sentenced by the courts to do unpaid work in their communities.

A spokesperson for the Government said: "We're determined to put an end to the corrosive effects of antisocial behaviour, which in too many places has worn down people's sense of safety, security and pride of place.

"That's why – as well as tackling these unacceptable crimes – we're also putting funding into revitalising neighbourhoods so people can feel proud of where they call home."

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