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ASBOs explained

ASBOs explainedThey can cover anything from carrying a weapon to wearing a hat. But what are ASBOs, and how do they really work?

Who are they for?

Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, or ASBOs, are civil orders meant to prevent people known to behave antisocially from doing so again.

They can be given out for any behaviour which “caused or was likely to cause harm, harassment, alarm or distress”. They work by banning the person from doing certain things or going to certain places.

Usually, the ban will be on something leading up to the anti-social behaviour, not the behaviour itself. For example, someone is more likely to be banned from carrying spray paint in a certain area than from spraying graffiti.

How are ASBOs given out?

First, someone has to apply for an ASBO against a person who has been behaving anti-socially. Only certain people can apply: these include the police and landlords who run social housing.

The applicant usually provides a draft of the order, but the final ASBO will be written by the court.

Decisions about ASBOs are made in the magistrates’ courts. Although they are civil orders, they require a similar level of proof to a criminal case: the court must be convinced beyond reasonable doubt.

What happens if you break an ASBO?

Breaking an ASBO is a criminal offence – even if the original behaviour was not. It is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Criticsm of ASBOs

The extra power ASBOs provide has worried some people. Not only can they make otherwise non-criminal actions a criminal offence, they are very open-ended: there is not much restriction on what a court can put in an ASBO.

Critics have also pointed out that very few ASBO applications are turned down: around 3%.

There are fewer restrictions on news organisations reporting on ASBOs than there are for criminal trials.
As a result, there is a risk that those who receive them will either become stigmatized (feel publicly shamed) or will view having an ASBO as a “badge of honour”.

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