Monday, 9 August 2010

Anti Social Behaviour Orders

This was originally published on No More Prison's Website in 2005

What is an ASBO?

Anti-Social Behaviour Orders were introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and came into force on 1 April 1999. ASBO's ban individuals from entering certain areas or carrying out specific acts for a minimum period of two years. The acts are not normally acts that are otherwise illegal or criminal. However once an ASBO has been served these acts become criminal offences (only for the person the ASBO was served) that can attract up to 5 years imprisonment.

An application for an ASBO can be made to a magistrate by police forces, local authorities, housing action trusts and registered social landlords and imposed on the individual deemed guilty of "anti-social behaviour". The Government defines this as
behaviour which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more people who are not in the same household as the perpetrator
ASBOs also take the form of interim orders (made by the magistrates' court or the county court ahead of a full hearing), county court orders (obtained when other proceedings against an individual are underway such as possession of tenancy) and "orders made on conviction in criminal proceedings" (where the criminal courts can serve an order on an individual convicted of a criminal offence).

An ASBO is a civil order, this means that the burden of proof is lower than in criminal cases, and hearsay evidence is admissible. This lower rate of proof has made application very difficult to resist. The courts refuse less than 1 in 60 applications. If breached, the individual has committed a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, currently before Parliament, is proposing to remove the anonymity of children involved in criminal proceedings for breaching the terms of their ASBO to facilitate their "naming and shaming". In January 2005 the Joint Committee on Human Rights expressed concern at clauses 127 and 128.

Some examples of the use of ASBO's
  • In October 2004 a profoundly deaf girl was served an ASBO for spitting in public. She was subsequently imprisoned.
  • In July 2003 an 87 year old was served an order which, among other things, banned him from being sarcastic to his neighbours.
  • Manchester - female prostitute banned from carrying condoms in an area which included her drug clinic which, as part of its harm reduction work, provides clients with free condoms.
  • Leonard Hockey, a homeless man issued with an ASBO banning him from begging. He was later breached and imprisoned. He died in prison.
  • A 74 year old woman is facing prison if she insults her neighbours or makes any form of complaint to public bodies.
  • In October 2004, two brothers aged 10 and 11 were among other things banned from congregating in a group of more than two people or entering any domestic or commercial property without the prior consent of the owner.
  • Birmingham, a 26 homeless man given an ASBO banning begging. He continued begging and got a two year sentence. On his release he started begging again and was sentenced to a further 3 year prison. In total to date he has been sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for an offence that is not in itself imprisonable.
  • A 17-year-old sentenced to four months' youth detention after he broke his order in a 3am fracas with police at his home. However, his lawyer revealed that in the previous 14 months he had been charged with an offence on 19 separate occasions and all of which had resulted in his favour. His lawyer claimed this to be "a pretty outrageous statistic" and that "he's been targeted and I am quite sure the conduct of the police was entirely unacceptable"
  • A 47 year old man was banned from buying or consuming any alcohol. He breached it and was imprisoned.
  • A 13 year old boy has been banned from using the word "grass" anywhere in England and Wales.
  • A 16 year old boy ordered, at the threat of up to 5 years imprisonment, not to behave in an anti social manner at school. His crime, disrupting a science class.
  • Manchester - 18 year old man banned from congregating with three or more other "youths" arrested for attending a successful youth club that was running a session on "how to deal with anti-social behaviour"
  • In August 2004 a homeless alcoholic was banned from consuming alcohol in a public place and entering licenced premises. He breached this order within two weeks.
  • Manchester City Council obtained an ASBO against mobile soup vans providing assistance to homeless people in the city centre.
  • A 20 year old long term prisoner was on the day before his release served an ASBO banning him from entering the estate he lived on with his Grandmother. He had been her carer since he was 12 years old.

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