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Social Sciences - Hot Topics - ASBOs

ASBOs - What Are They ?
ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) were first brought into force by the Government in 1998 under the Crime and Disorder Act. This Act was a response to increasing public concern about anti-social behaviour.
What constitutes anti-social behaviour is very broad-ranging. People can be served an ASBO for:

a. Harassment of residents or passers-by
b. Verbal abuse
c. Criminal damage
d. Vandalism
e. Noise nuisance
f. Writing graffiti
g. Engaging in threatening behaviour in large groups
h. Racial abuse
i. Smoking and drinking alcohol while under age
j. Substance abuse
k. Joyriding
l. Begging
m. Prostitution
n. Kerb-crawling
o Throwing missiles
p. Assault
q. Vehicle crime

The flexibility of ASBOs means that they can be tailored to cover a wider range of anti-social behaviour than is covered by this list. .

How is an ASBO Granted?
An ASBO is applied for by the police or local authorities against an individual behaving in a way deemed to be anti-social. Once granted by the Magistrates Court, it is very much like an injunction, with the subject being banned from a certain area or some form of curfew being imposed. The minimum period for an ASBO is two years, though there is no maximum length.

It is a criminal offence to breach an ASBO.

Divided Views on ASBOs

Concerns about ASBOs have been raised by civil liberties campaigners. They view ASBOs as targeting some of the more vulnerable groups in society, such as the mentally ill, drug and alcohol addicts, victims of abuse or violence, and elderly people who might be suffering from dementia.

There is also a concern that ASBOs are causing young people to be dragged into the criminal justice system while the root causes of anti-social behaviours remain unaddressed.

Another criticism is that people can now be imprisoned for non-imprisonable offences, such as begging. A persistent beggar can be made the subject of an ASBO, and, though not causing a crime by begging, could be imprisoned for breaching the ASBO.

In response, supporters of ASBOs say that the issue of anti-social behaviour is one of the main concerns, if not the main concern, of the average citizen raised at MPs' surgeries across the country, and that ASBOs have given more power to the police which in turn has helped in reducing such problems. One success story that has been cited is that of the drug problem in Camden that has been remarkably reduced as a direct result of ASBOs. So successful has Camden been that in December 2003, the council advertised for a dedicated ASBO solicitor, and those involved in their ASBO scheme have been touring other councils, offering guidance.
In 2012 the Coalition Government decided it was time to look at the effectiveness of ASBOs again and replace them with new legislation.

The Library of Birmingham keeps Government Bills, Acts of Parliament and Statutory Instruments, including the legislation concerning ASBOs and other Government publications on the subject.
For further reading about ASBOs, please consult the Library Catalogue.

Useful Internet Sites


Part of the BBC's iCan site, addressing issues which concern people. The "feedback & comments" give both sides of the ASBO argument


Intended to help ASBO co-ordinators using the recent legislation


Official statistics on ASBOs


Access to Home Office and other government publications relating to ASBOs

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