The Anti-Social Behaviour Order can be a useful tool and properly applied can relieve people from the intolerable behaviour of others, but in the early days of the ASBO law these Orders were liberally scattered around, sometimes with ludicrous effect. There are examples here, and CrimeLine has a first-class summary of the current legal position. The higher courts are gradually getting a grip and setting out guiding principles for ASBOs that will serve to avoid some of the wilder and more oppressive uses of the Orders.
That still leaves us with many Orders made before senior wigs started to impose some sense, and there are daily injustices taking place as a result. I have blogged about an obnoxious drunk who has now served three six-month prison sentences for offences that in themselves are invariably dealt with by a fine.
More recently I have seen an alcoholic who was found in a stupor by police who had been called by passers-by who were concerned about him. Police ran checks and found that he was on an ASBO that forbade him, inter alia, to be drunk in a public place. Although he committed no nuisances or offences he was (properly) arrested for breach of the ASBO Since he is drunk 24/7 that order amounts to effective house arrest. Probation have said that the ASBO is unworkable and that repeated breaches are inevitable (in the trade, that’s what we call setting people up to fail, and we see it as a Bad Idea).
So we pushed the envelope a little when we dealt with him, but he will be back, and he will inevitably end up in front of a bench that will put him in prison. Prisons have more important things to do than to warehouse alcoholics. This man’s problem is primarily a healthcare matter, not criminal.
So my question to the criminal lawyers out there, is why aren’t we seeing applications to vary these old ASBOs, to bring them in line with current law? There are provisions for a court to consider applications to vary (I believe that written notice is required) but I don’t know of anyone who has seen one.
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