Tuesday, April 12, 2005

More about ASBOs

Anti-Social Behaviour Orders got off to a slow start and not many were made in the first couple of years'operation. Now they are being sought at an increasing rate and there is already concern among some judges and magistrates that orders are often sloppily drafted, and that in some cases they become an excuse for sloppy policing too.

At best an ASBO can be a useful tool to restrain bad behaviour and to protect the public, but it is essential that the Order's prohibitions are clear, simple, and enforceable. Press reports show a tendency towards over-complex and sometimes ludicrous prohibitions, such as the woman who was, in effect, ordered not to keep on trying to kill herself, the woman who was forbidden to pass anything out of her letter box (but not the cat flap?) and one I saw the other day forbidding the defendant to travel on certain train lines and to certain stations on those lines. Unfortunately the drafting was so bad that when he was arrested at one of the named stations it was discovered that the line from which he is barred does not run through that station and that he had therefore been illegally arrested.

The ASBO enthusiasts' latest wheeze concerns a local squabble in the Wiltshire village of Lyneham which has two rival websites. The more robust of the two ran some Private-Eye/Viz style gibes following the death of the Pope, and its webmaster is now being threatened with an ASBO! If the local authority is foolish enough to apply for one, I do hope that the local Bench send them away with a flea in their ear.

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