What is an ASBO?

Anti-Social Behaviour Orders were a key part of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and came into force on 1 April 1999. Since modified, by the Police Reform Act 2002 and the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, orders ban individuals from entering certain areas or carrying out specific acts for a minimum period of two years (see Home Office website).

An application for an ASBO can be made to a magistrate by police forces (including the British transport police), local authorities, housing action trusts and registered social landlords and imposed on an individual whose behavious is deemed to be "anti-social." This was defined by a government guide to ASBOs on their crime reduction website as:

"behaviour which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more people who are not in the same household as the perpetrator"

ASBOs also take the form of interim orders (made by the magistrates' court or the county court ahead of a full hearing), county court orders (obtained when other proceedings against an individual are underway such as possession of tenancy) and "orders made on conviction in criminal proceedings" (where the criminal courts can serve an order on an individual convicted of a criminal offence). The latter has become known as a "CRASBO", but this is a somewhat erroneous term because the key point remains that, as in all cases, they are civil orders.

This means that in the application process, for an ASBO, there is no jury and hearsay evidence is admissible. If breached, the individual has committed a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison for adults, and a two year detention and training order for under 18s.

Enforcing the orders has frequently proven difficult, so to encourage the public to take an active role recipients are often "named and shamed". Between April 1999 and December 2004, 4,649 ASBOs were issued in England and Wales and that number rose by over 100% by the end of 2005 to 9,853. By December 2007 14,972 ASBOs had been issued. The latest Ministry of Justice statistics (pdf), published in July 2010, put the total number of ASBOs issued at 16,999. An area-by-area breakdown can be found here and has also been more attractively laid out by The Guardian here.

In February 2007, the government, in response to a freedom of information request, revealed that 47% of these orders have been breached. It was reported in May 2008 that this figure has since risen to 67%. The July 2010 statistics put the overall figure at 55%, with 65% of children breaching their order at least once. If an ASBO is breached, it is breached an average of 4.2 times.

July 2010 Ministry of Justice statistics also revealed that, since 2004, the majority of ASBOs have been issued in the form of "CRASBOs".

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