Anti social behaviour defined as behaviour in the local community that causes harassment, alarm or distress is a real problem for local authorities and police forces throughout the UK.
Anti-social behaviour can encompass many different things from noise nuisance, neighbour disputes, alcohol or drug fuelled disturbances, graffiti, vandalism through to behaviour that is deemed to be anti-social. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 outlines provisions for dealing with anti-social behaviour through an Anti-Social Behaviour Order or ASBO.
These are designed to act as a preventative measure in communities where this type of behaviour is problematic. When an individual is issued with an ASBO it prevents them from participating in certain types of behaviour and limits their movement in a particular area.
What is Anti-Social Behaviour?
Anti-social behaviour can take many forms, but it is primarily behaviour that is intended to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
Behaviour can include:
• Verbal abuse to residents in a local area or members of the public
• Criminal damage
• Underage smoking or drinking
• The abuse of substances
• Throwing missiles
Noise nuisance such as playing loud music, shouting or making threats in a public place
An ASBO may be issued to any individual including young people, provided that they are over the age of ten years who has been involved in or perpetrating anti-social behaviour. The orders are granted to protect the community and serve as a preventative measure against the continuation of such behaviour.
An application for an ASBO can be submitted under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 by relevant authorities who have the ability to do so. This can include the local authority, the police force, registered social landlords and housing associations. Where the ASBO is obtained by the British Transport Police, registered social landlords or housing trusts, they must work in collaboration with the local authorities and consult with them before making an application. That said, the local authority and police do not have to consent to allow external agencies to request an ASBO but they do need to be made aware.
These organisations can only file for an ASBO if the perpetrator is causing problems to their property rather than in the wider community.
In 2005, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act stated that a number of additional authorities could apply for an ASBO. These include Transport for London and the Environment Agency.
Where required, an ASBO is obtained from the Magistrates court, the county court, crown court or youth court in the following situations:
If the applicant requires a standalone order for an individual over the age of 10. In this instance, the application must be made to the magistrates court.
Where there is already proceedings in the county court, it is possible to apply for an ASBO.
If there is a criminal conviction already in place, a request for an ASBO can be made without a formal application.
Terms of an ASBO
The terms contained within the Anti-Social Behaviour Order define the restrictions placed on the individual to prevent them committing further anti-social behaviour. Every ASBO is different and tailored to the specific circumstances of the individual. In addition, ASBOs are very carefully constructed so that they cannot be breached, whether the breach is intentional or unintentional.
It is important to recognise that the ASBO does not oblige the individual to do something, rather instructing them to avoid or stop certain activities.
The minimum term for an ASBO is two years. This is because it will give communities sufficient time away from the anti-social behaviour. ASBOs can however run for longer terms, with no maximum limit placed on them. The length of the ASBO will be determined by the court. There are a number of elements that the ASBO should contain such as:
• The type of behaviour that the individual cannot participate in
• Protection for victims who were subject to the anti-social behaviour or members of the community who may have been targeted next
• Terms of the ASBO which are realistic and achievable for the individual
• Preventative measure to reduce anti-social behaviour in local communities
• Terms that are easy to understand and follow
Depending on the nature of the ASBO, it may also include instructions that prohibit the offender from participating in activities or entering a specific area that could lead to them committing anti-social behaviour.
The orders can also provide general conditions that stops the individual from committing behaviour that would cause alarm or distress to residents or other members of the public. Instructions in the order can additionally prevent the offender from contacting witnesses or victims in cases that are to be dealt with at a future date.
Breaching an ASBO
There will be times where offenders will ignore the terms of the ASBO and commit a breach. In this instance, they have committed a criminal offence and this can result in a summons to court. Young offenders who are found to be in breach of the ASBO can receive a fine of up to £250 for young people aged between 10 years and 14 years.
For young people aged between 15 years and 17 years, the fine increases to up to £1,000. In either case, it is up to the parents of the defendant to pay the fine.
Those in breach of an ASBO may also be given a Detention and Training Order or a community sentence, but this will be determined by the court and dependant on the age of the offender. Adults who breach an Anti-Social Behaviour Order can receive a fine of up to £5,000 or receive a custodial sentence of up to five years in prison. In the worst cases, they may be subject to a fine and a period of time in prison.
Anti-social behaviour is disruptive and it can be unsettling for local communities to experience. ASBOs are intended to discourage this type of behaviour and act as a deterrent for those who participate in unacceptable behaviour. If you require any advice on these orders it is advised that you consult a qualified criminal law solicitor who can be provide you with the relevant information and guidance.