Q&A: Anti-social behaviour powers


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The coalition is reforming anti-social behaviour orders - how do the new powers compare to the old?

What is an Anti-social behaviour order?

Anti-social behaviour orders - or Asbos - are orders imposed on individuals by the courts and they were created by the former Labour government.

They are a civil rather than criminal order and they are aimed at banning an individual from engaging in specific behaviour or going to certain places.

In other words they try to stop someone doing something which local officials and police say is anti-social - rather than punish somebody for breaking a law.

Asbos can prohibit actions which are not in themselves criminal but are a prelude to a crime. An example would be banning an individual from entering a local shop because of a record of shoplifting. If someone breaches an Asbo they can be jailed.

How are they imposed?

Magistrates make the orders typically after an application by a local council, backed by the police. The council seeking the order must give the court specific details to justify the order, such as the people and incidents involved and the restrictions of the proposed ASBO.

Magistrates also hear about welfare issues, family circumstances, attempts at mediation, warnings and evidence that the defendant has not been victimised or discriminated against. Asbos typically last for two years and the individual subject to the restrictions can launch an appeal at Crown Court.

What are the criticisms?

In short, the key criticism is they do not work. They're a sticking plaster rather than a solution. Some people who were given Asbos saw them as a badge of honour - using their local notoriety to cause more mayhem. The government says official figures show that more than half of all Asbos are breached - and those that are are breached on average four times.

The Conservatives say Labour over-complicated the system, leading to 19 different powers, adding to bureaucracy, delays and a loss of community confidence. The coalition government's starting point is that much of what has become classed as anti-social behaviour is in fact crime and should be treated as crime.

So how is the government changing the system?

Ministers say that the focus on victims has been lost. They want to take the existing 19 powers and reduce them to six which are connected to:

  • The behaviour of people
  • The protection of places
  • The powers of the police

The government says these changes aim to give local communities the flexibility to do what they think is right to tackle anti-social behaviour, rather than try to fit an incident into a specific legal box defined by Whitehall. The Home Office argues its reforms will make the system simpler and clear up confusion around which power to use to deal with a problem.

The key changes explained: Existing powers on the left, proposed powers on the right:
A graphic explaining the changes to Anti-Social Behaviour
    • People
    • CRASBO
    • Cr DBO
    • ASBO
    • DBO
    • ASBI
    • ISO
    • IO
    • Criminal Behaviour Order
    • Crime Prevention Injunction
    • Places
    • Litter
      Clearing Notice
    • Street Litter Clearing
    • Graffiti Defacement Removal Notice
    • Designated Public Place Order
    • Gating Order
    • Dog Control Order
    • Premises Closure Order
    • Crack House Closure Order
    • Noisy Premises Closure Order
    • S161 Closure Order
    • Community Protection Order
    • Community Protection Notice
    • Police powers
    • S.30
      Dispersal Order
    • S.27
      Direction to leave
    • Directions Power

Key: CRASBO=Criminal Anti-Social Behaviour Order; DBO=Drink Banning Order; CR DBO=Drink Banning Order on Conviction; ASBI=Anti-Social Behaviour Injunction; ISO=Individual Support Order; IO=Intervention Order.

So what are the proposed revised powers?

In the White Paper, the ASBO and six related orders relating to the behaviour of people, such as Drink Banning Orders, will be replaced in England and Wales by two orders: the Criminal Behaviour Order and a Crime Prevention Injunction. The CBO will be available to be used against people convicted of crime. The CPI is similar to the existing Asbos - but ministers say it will be available at an earlier stage of bad behaviour and be easier and faster to use.

The government says the new injunctions will be available to be imposed at a lower standard of proof than Asbos because they are civil orders granted in the County Court, not by a magistrate.

A council seeking an ASBO has to prove its case to the criminal standard of "beyond reasonable doubt" rather than merely on the balance of probabilities. Other agencies, such as the NHS, will also be allowed to seek CPIs.

The second set of powers relate to protection of places. The 10 current laws include powers to close premises, control dogs in public, deal with crack houses or ban drinking in a specific area, such as a town square. Under the proposals these will be reduced to three types of Community Protection Orders.

What about police powers?

Police officers have two specific and overlapping ASBO-related powers to allow them to force people to move on. An area designated as a dispersal zone gives the police the power to disperse groups or two or more people from the area for 24 hours. It was designed to stop gangs hanging around and intimidating people. The second power allows the police to order people to leave a public place where they believe their presence will contribute to alcohol-related crime or disorder.

These are going to be consolidated into a single power under which the police will not need to designate a dispersal zone in advance.

Ministers say this will mean the police can deal quickly with "emerging trouble" before it gets out of control. In the wake of the riots in English cities in August 2011, the Home Secretary said she would consider a new curfew power to allow police to clear rapidly people out of areas where there is trouble.

What is the community trigger?

The Home Office says victims need greater reassurance that their problems are being taken seriously by local police and councils. One of the most well-known cases where a family were failed is that of Fiona Pilkington in Leicestershire. She repeatedly complained that she and her disabled daughter were being terrorised by abuse. In 2007, after a decade of intimidation, she killed her daughter and her herself.

Three areas - Manchester, Brighton and Hove and West Lindsey in Lincolnshire - are piloting a proposed "community trigger". Under the system, the police would be forced to respond if five households complain, or the same individual complains three times.

Dominic Casciani Article written by Dominic Casciani Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    The best way of resolving all this bad behaviour? apart from a culture shift, get rid of P.A.C.E (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) 1984 and let the Police deal with these idiots that blight the streets in their own way before this stupid act came into place. Put more faith in your bobbies Ms May

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Deport them to poor countries in Africa along with the aid money we give. Africa is pretty lawless and will suit these kinds of people perfectly, they can be as antisocial as they want to.

    Of course, they will have to fit this in between working to earn enough money to feed themselves. They can learn this exciting new thing called responsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I think the ASBOS were too weak and the new ones are even weaker. The Tories are so far removed from the real lives of most Brits that they don't see a need for ASBOS. All the Tories are trying to do is to keep more people out of jail. They don't care if someone is terrorising a neighbourhood - they just don't want to pay taxes to keep that person in prison. Another blunder by idiot Theresa May.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The Directions Powers seem explicitly designed as a way to stop peaceful protests like the Occupy camps and demonstrations. Don't get taken in by the whitewash about gang and alcohol related violence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    "It was designed to stop gangs hanging around and... alcohol-related crime or disorder."

    Antisocial? Really? Not. And be glad. You have more chance helping but jail/fine isn't that oft helpful. The irony is antisocial people are charismatic generally, and certainly sociable and that is their way to manipulate people. Combine with no empathy, and that's the problem. A classic example is Ted Bundy.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I wonder how much this will affect neighbours who are having ongoing disputes. Are there any measures in place to ensure that individuals are not treated unfairly?I understand that more serious forms of antisocial behaviour must be addressed but removing procedures and making it easier for authorities to slap restrictions on just anyone worries me.Who determines what is anti-social and what isnt?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Not sure changing one ineffective protocol for another will help. I hope it does.

    I am not a "leftie" and although this may help put a plaster over a wound shouldn't we be dealing with the underlying problems?

    Put the education system in the hands of independents not politicians. Lower youth unemployment. Lessen the gap between rich and poor. Priority should be education, education, education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    The current system is a shambles. The yobs treat ASBOs as a badge of honour because don't really have any teeth. Whether this new system will be any better is doubtful because I don't believe it will be enforced any better than the current system. We need to change the law so the law abiding, social majority have more rights than the yobs which isn't the case at present.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    As said here...Asbos are seen as an achievement by too many people who have them as do those who share their company.
    If somebody vandalised my property I would be delighted if they had their bare backsides thrashed with a six foot cane like the Rotan they use in Singapore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    We don't have such a thing in Canada, nor would I like to see such a thing. If a person engages in criminal behavior, s/he is arrested and dealt with under the law, but branding a person under anti-social behavior (without conviction) would contravene our Human Rights Charter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Labour always laboured under the delusion that if you made something illegal or banned it then they had "solved the problem".

    They then left enforcement down to others, safe in the understanding that they had "solved the problem" and if the problem still existed it was not their fault - fantastic thinking !

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    The offences covered by Asbos are crimes - treat them as such, and punish the offenders in ways that curtail their freedom to carry out the crimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    So, now the police will be able to move anyone on for any reason with no checks or balances. Sounds like a nice free society to me....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Why is anti-social behaviour such a big topic in the UK compared to neighbouring countries?

    Why not deal with certain things under existing laws if required?

    PS: What's "anti-social"? A term that can be stretched like rubber.


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