Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOS)

What is an anti-social behaviour order?

An anti-social behaviour order or ASBO as they are more commonly known is a specific order from a court which prohibits certain intimidating or threatening actions and behaviour.

An ASBO can be put in place on a certain person banning them from the following types of action:

  • Threatening, intimidating or disruptive actions

  • Spending time with a particular group of people

  • Visiting certain areas

Why do we have anti-social behaviour orders?

The orders were first introduced by the Government in the late 1990’s under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.  They are now governed by the Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003 which was specifically intended to target nuisance crime and low level criminality.  This is the kind of crime which is creating a problem within specific communities.   ASBO’s are designed to protect certain victims, sometimes neighbours and often whole communities from behaviour going on around them which has frightened or intimidated them and in some cases damaged their quality of life.

How long does an anti-social behaviour order last?

An ASBO will be in effect for a minimum of two years.  They can however, be enforced for a longer periods than this. 

If I am the subject of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order will cause me to have a criminal record?

An ASBO is a civil order meaning that it does not carry criminal penalties and will be dealt with in a civil court so will not appear on an already existing criminal record or create a new criminal record.   If, however, the terms of the ASBO are breached then that person will have committed a criminal offence.

If I breach my ASBO will I go to prison?

The maximum prison sentence for breach of an ASBO is five years.  Breach is also punishable by a fine.  If it is a first time breach a fine is the more likely option with prison sentences held for those who continually breach the ASBO imposed on them.

Who can call for an ASBO to be imposed?

Under the Antisocial Behaviour Act the following agencies can ask for an ASBO to be imposed against a particular person:

  • Local authorities, i.e. local councils

  • Police forces

  • Registered social landlords and housing action trusts

  • British Transport Police

What other powers are there under the Act?

The Antisocial Behaviour Act was put in place specifically to enable anti-social behaviour orders to be ordered upon individuals who are consistently behaving in a certain manner but it also provides many other powers for the above agencies to deal with anti-social behaviour.

Dispersal orders can be orders by both police and community support officers.  These are issued against groups of two or more people, within a designated area, whose behaviour they believe is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to members of the general public.  If the group refuses or returns again to the specific area this will constitute a criminal offence for which they will be charged.

The police can hand out on-the-spot fines for noise, graffiti and truancy.

The police are able to order young people under the age of 16 to return to their homes after 9 p.m.

Police are able to issue closure orders.  This enables the police to order the shuttering of a premises which is used for the supply, production or use of Class A drugs.  This has often been called the “crack house closure order” and can be in existence over a certain premises for a period of up to six months.

Section 16 of the Public Order Act 1986 is amended by the Act so that where once a minimum of 20 people were required to constitute an assembly, now only two are needed.

To read more about ASBOs and the criminalisation of nuisance we recommend the following book: ASBO Nation: The Criminalisation of Nuisance