– Anti Social Behaviour Orders & Acceptable Behaviour Contracts
– What are they, what is anti-social behaviour?
– How to get an ASBO or an ABC?
What is an ASBO?
When dealing with nuisance neighbours we’re often faced with all kinds of other disturbances and problems. As anyone that has suffered with a problem neighbour will know, with disturbance and unwanted intrusions often comes antisocial behaviour.
With Neighbours From Hell, things often go hand in hand; it’s a very rare occurrence where a neighbour problem will solely be isolated in it’s own right – with noise often comes threatening and intimidating behaviour, with boundary problems, bullying is often associated. So the list goes on and so unfortunately do the associations.
Anti Social Behaviour Orders or ‘ASBO’s’ originate from the platform of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 – this piece of legislation introduced by the government focuses on the many varied and different areas of criminal activity, different crimes and disorderly behaviour.
Within the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, many new ways were first introduced to help combat criminal issues and the anti social behaviour order was amongst these. These are outlined within Part 1 – ‘Crime and disorder: general’.
The key point here to note though is that an order can be applied for against any individual who is over the age of 10 years old.
The act states:
1. – (1) An application for an order under this section may be made by a relevant authority if it appears to the authority that the following conditions are fulfilled with respect to any person aged 10 or over”
You can’t apply for an ASBO as a private individual, it can only be sought by the Police in an official capacity, together with the Local Authority in question – they are a joint undertaking. The orders, that are made to the magistrate’s court are community based and they can be made against a person or group of individuals who display and use anti social behaviour.
The minimum length that an ASBO needs to be in place is for two years. Before an ASBO can be applied for there must be evidence of some form(s) of antisocial behaviour.
What’s Antisocial behaviour mean then?
So what is antisocial behaviour? Is it drunken behaviour, a fight in the street, one off arguments from your neighbour? The phrase antisocial behaviour describes any behaviour from any individual that causes another person distress, harm or harassment.
Antisocial behaviour doesn’t necessarily have to be physically based remember, but obviously this is very relevant. It can also be foul and abusive language, threatening behaviour, assault, shouting, criminal damage, theft, disorderly conduct, vandalism, intimidation & bullying, racial harassment, homophobic behaviour, behaviour as a result of drug or alcohol misuse, noise which is excessive and particularly late in the night time, graffiti & littering – there are many forms and this is by no means an extensive listing. If in doubt get it clarified with your local police service or local authority.
Young people and children who gather in public places (e.g. on housing estates, car parks, around local shops) and whom indulge in behaviour that is considered ‘boisterous’ doesn’t classify as antisocial behaviour, even where they may be cycling, using skateboards, kicking footballs and playing loud ball games. This behaviour in it’s own right is unlikely to be thought of as antisocial unless this is being done with other, more serious issues of behaviour as outlined above.
One line of defence that can be made from individuals who are faced with the prospect of having an ASBO placed upon them is that ‘behaviour was reasonable’. Of course such a term is very subjective and is open to wide interpretation by the magistrates court. The use of witnesses in a court situation is quite acceptable and can provide further evidence-based information and facts in each case. Where witnesses feel too intimidated or frightened to give evidence, evidence can be seen first hand and then used legally by the police and authorities.
ASBO’s are an expensive business – so whether or not this influences your local authority and police force to act or not is a question for you to decide! Some sources do suggest that ASBO’s can cost in excess of £20,000!
ASBO’s are sometimes seen as the most extreme options to be put into place (although they can be used as either first or last measures) and most often appear to be used where other legislation has failed or not been totally effective.
Acceptable behaviour contracts (ABC’s) can be implemented well before an ASBO is considered or in the place of an ASBO. Although having said this many opinions on ASBO’s is that they should not be used as a last resort and both ABC’s and ASBO’s are equally powerful measures to take and can or should be used dependant on particular circumstances.
Acceptable Behaviour Contract
Where an ASBO is an official implementation which carries the full force of legal and statutory implementation, the Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC) is conducted and used through an informal procedure and does have some significance that is legally based. ABC’s can be used both with children, young adults and older adults.
The Acceptable Behaviour Contract is a formal agreement in written form (i.e. not verbal) which is made between an individual and most often their parent or guardian (in the cases of children/young people). They can also be made between the individual and the ‘registered landlords’, housing departments, schools, the local police and are extremely flexible in content and the format presented.
When signed, individuals are agreeing that they will not display or act in an antisocial manner in future circumstances and ABC’s are important in encouraging children and young people/adults to take on more ownership and responsibility of their own actions; including encouraging their parents/guardians responsibilities for a perpetrator’s behaviour that is unacceptable.
People who agree with these contracts also agree not to take part in certain, specific behaviours (harassment, alarm, nuisance and distress for example). If an ABC is broken or not maintained, ASBO’s can be applied for through the magistrates court as normal.
ABC’s normally last for a period of 6 months but can be extended in particular circumstances where the police and local authority feel it to be necessary.
ASBO’s are generally intended for use with adults, but recent information suggests that they are most often being used with children and young people who are over the age of 10, they are made on an individual basis even if someone is part of a larger group of antisocial people. In terms of those individuals who are living with someone who is responsible for their housing/tenancy (e.g. parent/guardian), legal action can be taken against them too (say for example against the tenancy of that person).
If a person who is subject to an ASBO is seen to break the conditions imposed by the order, they can be arrested and brought before the magistrates court again. Breaching an ASBO is a criminal offence and these cases can be brought before a Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. Penalties imposed can range from 6 months to 5 years imprisonment, but it’s important to note that the Youth Court will manage cases where individuals are aged between 15 -18 years and can only impose a maximum custodial sentence of 6 months.
To find out more about Anti Social Behaviour Orders and Acceptable Behaviour Contracts telephone or write to your local council in your area, e-mail can sometimes be used for this. Also ring your local police force’s general enquiry number and ask them for further advice.
You can also join the forum board to ask for more help and information – it’s very busy and has a lot of good information, we have over 32,000 registered members.
The New Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 comes into force during 2004.
This article last revised: 20th January 2004