The purpose and method of enforcement
The ultimate purpose of the Council’s Regulatory Services is to ensure that duty holders manage and control matters effectively. The term 'enforcement' has a wide meaning and applies to all dealings between enforcing authorities and those on whom the law places duties (employers, the self-employed, employees and the citizens of Northampton).
The purpose of enforcement is to:
• ensure that duty holders take action to deal immediately with serious matters;
• promote and achieve sustained compliance with the law;
• ensure that duty holders who breach requirements be held to account, which may include bringing alleged offenders before the courts in the circumstances set out later in this policy.
Enforcement is distinct from civil claims for compensation and is not undertaken in all circumstances where civil claims may be pursued, nor to assist such claims.
The Council have a range of tools at their disposal in seeking to secure compliance with the law and to ensure a proportionate response to criminal offences. Officers may offer duty holders information, and advice, both face to face and in writing: This may include warning a duty holder that in the opinion of the officer, they are failing to comply with the law. Where appropriate, officers may also serve enforcement notices, injunctions, withdraw approvals, vary licence conditions or exemptions, issue formal cautions and fixed penalties.
Simple cautions and prosecution are important ways to bring duty holders to account for alleged breaches of the law. Where it is appropriate to do so in accordance with this policy, the council should use one of these measures in addition to other enforcement action.
Investigating the circumstances encountered during inspections or following incidents or complaints is essential before taking any enforcement action. In deciding what resources to devote to these investigations, the council will have regard to the principles of enforcement set out in this statement. In particular, in allocating resources, the council will strike a balance between investigations and preventive activity.
The Council will use discretion in deciding when to investigate or what enforcement action maybe appropriate. The Council will set down in writing the decision-making process which officers will follow when deciding on enforcement action, and make this publicly available. Such judgements will be made in accordance with the Enforcement Concordat agreed between the Cabinet, Home and Scottish (now the Scottish Executive) Offices and local authority associations and also the guidance of the Code for Crown Prosecutions.
The principles of enforcement
The Council believes in firm but fair enforcement of the law. This will be informed by the principles of proportionality applying the law and securing compliance; consistency of approach; targeting of enforcement action; transparency about how the regulator operates and what those regulated may expect; and accountability for the regulator's actions.
Proportionality means relating enforcement action to the offence. Those whom the law protects and those on whom it places duties (duty holders) expect that action taken by enforcing authorities to achieve compliance or bring duty holders to account for non-compliance should be proportionate to the offence, or to the seriousness of any breach, which includes any actual or potential harm arising from a breach of the law.
In practice, applying the principle of proportionality means that the council will take particular account of how far the duty holder has fallen short of what the law requires and the extent of the risk/nuisance to people or non payment arising from the breach.