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 56.

    I have never ranted at moderators and my previous posts have indeed mentioned ASBOs. I admit that my opinions maybe considered a little right wing but no less valid all the same. Right left or centre we all have an opinion and a right to it. I believe in some cases the moderators are biased against right wing opinion and prefer the softer left wing or liberal approach.
    OK guys delete.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    As usual the uniformed are giving their twopenny worth, well I know firsthand as my four kids all have asbos. Firstly people are wrong to say there seen as a sign of status, truth is its the number you have. My youngest Wayne only has three and is bullied mercilessly. I'll be glad when this new one comes in as it will level the playing field.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    It's toothless. Any yoof found smashing windows/bottles/ hurling abuse at by-standers etc etc should be immediately carted off in hand-cuffs for a bit of attitude adjustment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    No point in making these changes unless the funds to implement them are in place and ring fenced. Punishments for transgression should be swift and painful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    @50 - go and google for 'Clement Attlee'.

    Then report back. Oversaw the formation of the NHS AND a functional welfare state in a time of far greater austerity than we have now. Pragmatic socialist and a fine leader. The opposite of CallMeDave, as it happens - all substance and no style.

    I do like the way you channel the tabloid press, mind. Are you an avid subscriber?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Let us do away with orders telling scum not to break the law again and go back to punishing them for their crimes the first time they commit them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.


    Pragmatic socialism - isn't that an oxymoron?

    So the increase in long-term welfare for the able bodied, the removal of marriage benefits, the abolition of grammar schools, preferential housing for young single mums, the Uman Rites Act, decriminalising shoplifting and canabis, ASBO's and giving council homes to anti-social people is all an Ultra Capitalist plot then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    @44 - I think you'll find that it is ultra-capitalism that has 'destroyed moral values, community cohesion, social mobility and personal responsibility' as much as the pursuit of liberal ideals. After all, liberals may not know the cost of anything, but they're pretty clued up on its value. Ultra-capitalists have the converse affliction. I'm all for pragmatic socialism myself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Well I, for one, am glad that they are reviewing the subject of ASBOS. I know of people in my town who actually compete to see how many they can chalk up. Counter productive or what?

    @41 & 42 & 33. Peter Young
    Stop ranting at the moderators. They are probably responding to complaints about your posts. I notice the last three didn't even mention ASBOS, so maybe they were regarded as "Off Topic".

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    I can't see that this is anything but a name changing exercise in effect. It'll be interesting to see how the "community trigger" works when the police don't have the resources now, never mind when their numbers are cut. All in all, I think it's just a sop to the Daily Mail readers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    #35 We HAVE a written constitution or rather several of them. The human rights act (which you don't seem to understand), the bill of rights, Magna Carta and a million pages of English common law all serve as written guarantees of your freedom. The US constitution specifies 'due process' bit doesn't say what due process is... its worse than useless as a result!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Following on from peter sym, ASBOs rely on Police and others involved in enforcing ASBO's being adequately funded and staffed to do so, and being run in a way to enable them to do so. Governments seem to like to throw money at changing policy, when the current policy may well work if the same money was directed to that, with some tweaks based on advise from those involved at ground level.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.


    "Theresa May is once again pandering to the mass vote."

    This is also called DEMOCRACY.

    Thankfully the days are over when the elite liberals told us what is best for society, then set about destroying moral values, community cohesion, social mobility and personal responsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    The main benefit of an ASBO was that it was an easy way to jail someone for continuing to do something that in itself was hard to prosecute. Verbal abuse and intimidation is hard to prove in court and is rarely punished but if your ASBO bans you from a street and you're caught in that street its an open & shut case. The problem was that breech of ASBO wasn't properly followed up.

  • Comment number 42.

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

  • Comment number 41.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    12 C

    I think you're confusing 'anti-social' with sociopath or possibly psychopath (the clinical definition, not the media one). Al Bundy may have been anti-social but Ted Bundy was way beyond an ASBO!

    37 shovehalfpenny

    Agree completely. Policemen need PACE to police one another. If we can't trust the police, who can we trust?

  • Comment number 39.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    31.Brian - "We simply need more proper ‘bobbies’ on the beat!......"

    That'll only work if more criminal offences are created....if we start criminalising normal teenage behaviour (most AS behviour is teen/kid based) instead of reasoning with kids & giving them something constructive to do we'll end up criminalising almost an entire generation for simply being kids.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    @16 - why on earth would you get rid of PACE?

    PACE is there to provide a process for the gathering of evidence and the interviewing of subjects. If you don't have PACE? You increase the risk of miscarriages of justice occurring. Which is why it was implented in the first instance.


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