In the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998, Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBO) were introduced. These orders were developed to impose sanctions on certain individuals to prevent them from behaving in a particular way.
The main idea behind the ASBO is to prevent the offender from causing harassment, alarm or distress within a designated area. Anti social behaviour orders can be issued to anyone over the age of 10 years old. Once issued, the orders are not classed as a criminal offence.
They are provided by the courts who will place certain restrictions on the offender. An Anti Social Behaviour Order usually lasts around two years.
Anti Social Behaviour Orders can be issued for a number of different offences including:
- Drug use and drug dealing
- Consuming alcohol in a public place
- Making hoax phone calls or being verbally abusive
- Sending text messages or making phonecalls which are offensive
- Persistently playing loud music
An ASBO can be issued in many different situations. Sometimes they are issued when other forms of action such as counseling or mediation have failed or the individual has received multiple warnings about their behaviour which has shown no signs of improvement.
ASBOs can be used to deal with a variety of issues from problem neighbours through to other disturbances, provided that these are caused by someone who is not a member of the same household.
When an Anti Social Behaviour Order is granted it will be issued with a set of restrictions tied to it. These restrictions are there to ensure that the offender does not continue with their anti social behaviour. Often restrictions stipulate that an offender cannot enter a particular area or they cannot cause a nuisance from loud music during certain hours for example.
An ASBO can be issued by a magistrates court, the Crown Court or a County Court.
Criminal Offences and ASBOs
While an ASBO in itself is not a criminal offence, breaching any of the terms and conditions outlined within the ASBO can result in criminal charges. Any breach of an ASBO can result in a prison sentence of up to five years.
When an Anti Social Behaviour Order is issued, this is classed as being a final warning. From when they were introduced in 1999 through to 2007, 14,972 ASBOs were issued. These Orders are usually given to offenders as a last resort and prior to them being issued several other strategies should be implemented in an attempt to deter the unwanted behaviour.
The specific strategies that are used will depend on the nature of the offence. Strategies that have been used include warning letters, mediation and an Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC). An Acceptable Behaviour Contract is an agreement in writing which is made between the local authority and the offender to state that the anti social behaviour will not continue.
In accordance with Section 1D of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, an Interim Order can be obtained. This can be granted in an initial court hearing which is held before a full hearing and is a temporary order which imposes the same restrictions as a full ASBO. Interim Orders can prove particularly beneficial when the court decides that the anti social behaviour requires addressing immediately in order to protect the public.
It also significantly reduces witness intimidation by making it unlawful for the offender to continue with the behaviour while the full ASBO is being processed. It also prevents the offender from delaying proceedings to obtain a full ASBO.
The Interim Order can be issued at the outset of proceedings for an application if the court decides that it is just to issue one of these temporary orders. When deciding whether to issue an interim order, the court will understand that it may not be possible to collate all of the evidence that would prove that a full ASBO is required.
Interim orders are usually for a fixed period of time. They can also be amended or discharged on application by a defendant. If the ASBO is refused or withdrawn, the Interim Order will naturally cease to exist. If the Interim Order is breached this carries with it the same penalties as a breach of a full ASBO.
Controversy Over Anti Social Behaviour Orders
There has been a great deal of controversy over the use of Anti Social Behaviour Orders because of the age at which they can be issued. Some see the age of 10 being too young. It is argued that children who are subject to these orders are often vulnerable and they need support and guidance rather than an ASBO.
Furthermore, publicly identifying those who have been issued with an ASBO has had a negative impact in terms of rehabilitation. In addition concern is also raised when offenders can go to prison for an offence that is not illegal if the conditions attached to the ASBO are breached.
Obtaining an Order
In line with the terms of the Crime and Disorder Act the local authority or agency making an application for an anti social behaviour order must demonstrate that the defendant had behaved in an anti social manner and the order is required to protect members of the public or other people from the defendant’s behaviour.
The most common type of behaviour where an Anti Social Behaviour Order is obtained is when the individual displays general unruly behaviour such as harassment, assault, graffiti, verbal abuse or excessive noise. ASBOs have also been used as a deterrent against racial harassment as well as drunk and disorderly, vehicle crime and throwing missiles.
Any agency who has been designated as a ‘relevant authority’ can apply for an order. The most common agencies include local authorities, registered social landlords and police forces.
Many local authorities will work in collaboration with several partner agencies including the Police, Social Services, housing providers and youth services to reduce the prevalence of Anti Social Behaviour. It is crucial that a designated individual within one of these agencies takes charge of the case as this will facilitate the process and make sure that the most appropriate action is taken. The designated case manager should coordinate other agencies to make sure each agency is contributing with their own specialist expertise.
Multi agency approaches should be encouraged during anti social behaviour cases to the behaviour can be identified and addressed using the most suitable methods.
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