For the 10 years that the Labour government has been in power, it has strived to reduce crime all over the UK. One of the main targets of the Labour Party was the rising number of Anti -Social incidents reported to the police every day. In order to combat this growing phenomenon that is today’s ‘Youth Culture’, the ASBO was created. The ASBO – or Anti Social Behaviour Order, to quote its official name – is a civil order made against a person who has been shown to have participated or initiated in anti social behaviour. This is defined as “conduct which caused or was likely to cause alarm, harassment, or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as him or herself and where an ASBO is seen as necessary to protect relevant persons from further anti-social acts by the Defendant” (UK Crime and Disorder Act 1998).
To request to issue a person with an ASBO, numerous warnings must be given to the individual, and if no progress is made a further request must be made at a Magistrates Court. The Labour government introduced the ASBO in 1998 after pressure from the general public to tackle crime issues. This led to the Crime & Disorder Act of 1998, and ensured that ASBOS’s first enforced on the 1st April 1999. (BBC News – 20/03/2002).
The ASBO was originally intended for use with adults, however with the rise of youth crime, it was necessary to broaden its range to children from the age of 10 and above. If a person is seen to be breaching their ASBO, it can often result in a custodial sentence from 6 months to 5 years; however the maximum sentence for young adults 15-18 years is 6 months. (Neighbours from Hell – 20/01/2004).
The ASBO in itself is a useful tool to combat many areas of nuisance behaviour that police or the government would previously have been unable to get involved in. Examples of the kind of behaviour that a person can be issued an ASBO are as follows:•Abusive, verbal behaviour•Begging•Behaviour which is abusive to other individuals•Boom-box cars/vehicles (noisy car stereos)•Bullies and Bullying•Children and Young People who are bullied in public places•Damage to property•Distressing behaviour•Drug and alcohol misuse/abuse•Harassment / Harassing passers-by or local residents
•Homophobic Behaviour•Illegal use of fireworks•Intimidating gangs of people (including young people)•Neighbour Intimidation•Noise Pollution•Other Damage•Rubbish and dumping of litter•Threatening Behaviour•Threats made in person or via the telephone•Throwing any kind of ‘missile’•Underage or illegal sales•Vandalism, Graffiti•Youths and young people who cause problems(Anti Social Behaviour Directory – © Copyright 2005 – 2007)Many local governments are in agreement with regards to the success of the ASBO to combat the above named behaviour. This has led to the Respect Action Plan (The Home Office – 10/01/2006).
Insert here further information of the Respect Action Plan,Key points of S Ludlam and M Smith, Governing as New Labour (2004) (Chapter 11)Also discuss further successes of the ASBO – include case studies – including quotes.
Discuss the finer points of J Muncie – Youth Crime (2004) – Including quotes.
Whilst the government often reply on statistics to show the effect the ASBOs are having on the youth of today, it is refreshing to see in depth articles about individuals who have used the ASBO to their advantage to turn around their life, such as 17 year old Shane Preston, who is now helping his local community to combat the nuisance behaviour by building a children’s play area. Shane himself has said ‘”I’ve grown up, I think. But the Asbo has helped me because it’s made me keep out of trouble. “I’m hanging around with different people now, but in the end it’s got nothing to do with others, it’s down to me.” (The Daily Mirror – 13/11/2007). Shane’s mature outlook on his life and future is something that needs to be highlighted more by the powers that be instead of publishing statistics that are only a fraction of what is actually going on.
Whilst the government are constantly issuing reports and statistics to show the positive effects of the ASBO, we also have the other side of the story. Many people feel the ASBO is an unnecessary form of harassment and they are not researched properly before being issued. A prime example of this is the case of Mrs X who was served an ASBO purely on false allegations. She wasn’t made aware of the ASBO allegations until the papers were served to her for a hearing in December 2004. Thankfully, the ASBO was overturned by the court and Mrs X was compensated but the council was criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman for “abuse of power of nightmarish proportions” (BBC News – 05/07/2007).
This report does little to alleviate the public’s worries with regards to the ASBO – especially when the uses for ASBOs are now getting more and more obscure – with more and more government funding spent:•Running a business from home•Parking Illegally & abandoned vehicles•Overgrown, unkempt gardens•Nuisance AnimalsAnd then when you look at the more serious issues an ASBO can be issued for, then people can be forgiven for wondering what police work actually carries an official custodial sentence?•Kerb crawling and prostitution•Arson•Assault•Criminal Behaviour•Criminal Damage•Handling stolen property•Stalking•Racist Behaviour / Racial Harassment•Domestic Violence•Joy riders(Anti Social Behaviour Directory – © Copyright 2005 – 2007)When we look at the above named issues, it is fair to say they are normally custodial sentence offenses – usually with a sentence above 5 years. So, when a stalker CAN be sentenced to life in prison for breaching restraining orders, is an ASBO a likely deterrent when it carries a maximum of five years in jail for a breach? The same can also be applied to Domestic Violence cases.
It is also fair to say the ASBO is seen as a status symbol – especially with the media and Television Personalities labelling today’s youth. We have high profile musicians directly mentioning ASBOs in their songs such as The Holloways (“Nothing for the Kids” So This Is Great Britain) and the Streets (“Memento Mori” The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living). We also have to contend with documentaries especially aimed at youths with ASBOs like Channel Fives series – From ASBO Teen to Beauty Queen (2006).
This all comes off the back of a MORI opinion poll that found that whilst 82% of the British public were in favour of ASBOs, only 39% believed that they were helping combat nuisance behavior (MORI – 10/06/2005) and also because there is little restrictions as to what a court can warrant as an ASBO Matt Foot, a criminal defense lawyer has reported in the same year that controversially only 3% of applications are actually turned down (The Guardian – 05/04/2005). This is also supported by the most recent NACRO report. NACRO has discovered that a year after the MORI opinion poll little has changed in the publics eyes with regards to ASBOs. The first report that NACRO carried out was in 2002 and it stated that ASBOS are too slow too obtain and are too expensive for what they actually are (NACRO – 12/11/2002). The most recent report states that ASBOS are being used too hastily in a bid to resolve the Anti – Social behaviour (NACRO – 07/12/2006).
Also discuss the negative side of the Respect Action Plan,Key points of S Ludlam and M Smith, Governing as New Labour (2004) (Chapter 11)Discuss the New Anti -Social Behaviour Act 2003 (Neighbours from Hell – Copyright 2005-2007)Discuss the finer points of J Muncie – Youth Crime (2004) – Including quotes.
Also include ABCs working much better than ASBOs – (Home office Online Report 02/2004)After looking at both angles of the ASBO its is fair to say that the ASBO is all very good in theory, but the government need to make sure that ALL breaches of the ASBOS are looked into properly and the punishment for breaking the agreement should fit and not just be a mandatory custodial sentence. Individual’s needs must be assessed. The government also needs to understand that as the notoriety of the ASBO rises, the system for the ASBO needs to be constantly reviewed and refreshed – and judging by Islington’s success (Home Office Online Report 02/2004), introducing more ABCs and ensuring the youths are being listened to and not just labelled.
We also need to ensure that the police are targeting the REAL nuisances. There are more and more cases hitting the news each day where people are issued with an ASBO or harassed by the police for something that they cannot control. The courts cannot issue ASBOs for noise issues if a building is being built (Metro News – 27/10/2006), or for someone using their own front door (iC Wales – 20/01/2007) and not expect some backlash from the general public about the money spent to investigate these things. The local communities who seem to have the most trouble would also benefit by combating youth boredom in their areas. Lottery grants are available for any good cause and with that funding parks and youth clubs can be built where youths can entertain themselves in a controlled environment. Many offenders often state that if they had somewhere to go, then they wouldn’t go ‘off the rails’ (The Daily Mirror – 13/11/2007). If we can combat youth ‘boredom’ we can then expect a decline in Anti-Social Behaviour.
Books:1 – S Ludlam and M Smith – Governing as New Labour (2004) (Chapter 11)2 – J Muncie – Youth Crime (2004) (Chapters 6.4, 7.2, 7.4)Websites:1 – (http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1998/ukpga_19980037_en_2#pt1-ch1-pb1-l1g1 – UK Crime & Disorder ACT 1998 – URL accessed 14/11/2007)2 – (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1883277.stm – BBC News 20/03/2002 – URL accessed 15/11/2007)3 – (http://www.nfh.org.uk/resources/Articles/asbo/index.php – Neighbours from Hell – 20/01/2004 – URL accessed 14/11/2007)4 – (http://www.antisocialbehaviour.org.uk/behaviour_types/index.php – Anti Social Behaviour Directory – © Copyright 2005 – 2007 URL accessed 13/11/2007)5 – (http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/respect-action-plan – The Home Office Website -10/01/2006 – URL accessed 13/11/2007)5 – (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/topstories/2007/11/13/asbo-made-me-give-up-life-as-a-yob-89520-20099323/ The Daily Mirror – 13/11/2007 URL accessed 14/11/2007)6 – (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/6272062.stm – BBC News 05/07/2007 – URL accessed 14/11/2007)7 – (http://www.ipsos-mori.com/polls/2005/asbo-top.shtml – MORI 10/06/2005 – URL accessed 13/11/2007)8 – (http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1452197,00.html – The Guardian 05/04/2007 – URL accessed 14/11/2007)9 – (http://www.nacro.org.uk/templates/news/newsitem.cfm/2002111200.htm/archive – NACRO 12/11/2002 – URL accessed 11/11/2007)10 – (http://www.nacro.org.uk/templates/news/newsitem.cfm/2006120700.htm – NACRO 07/12/2006 – URL accessed 13/11/2007)11 – (http://www.metronews.co.uk/news/s/602665_asbo_plea_for_noisy_builders – Metro News 27/10/2006 – URL accessed 12/11/2007)12 – (http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/news/walesnews/tm_objectid=15095255&method=full&siteid=50082&headline=terror-boy–17–banned-from-using-his-own-front-door-name_page.html – iC Wales -20/01/2005 – URL accessed 16/11/2007)