March 15, 2005 8:18 AM   Subscribe

ASBOs (or Anti Social Behaviour Orders) are used to stop a variety of different anti-social behaviours.
(Wikipedia Link only included to give background. The fun stuff is in the following BBC links)
posted by seanyboy (25 comments total)
Did you mean
posted by caddis at 8:25 AM on March 15, 2005

oops - yeah.
posted by seanyboy at 8:28 AM on March 15, 2005

This sounds like an incredibly bad idea.
posted by Yellowbeard at 8:33 AM on March 15, 2005

I'd like to get ASBOs against my neighbors who insist on randomly tossing their trash into my yard (two empty Old Milwaukee cans this morning) - bastards. I'd also like ASBOs to prevent smelly people from riding public transport. Sadly, this would never work in the States for obvious reasons.
posted by Juicylicious at 8:45 AM on March 15, 2005

The problem with ASBOs is that they're civil law orders with criminal law penalties for violating them. Because an ASBO is imposed under civil law the justification for it is subject to a lower level of proof than a criminal prosecution would entail, and violating the ASBO itself carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

Many of the ASBOs that have been handed out are for behaviour that is, indeed, anti-social. However, the mechanism is itself flawed and could be used to make an end-run around a subject's civil liberties, banning them from completely legal behavior (by orchestrating complaints) and then imposing criminal penalties upon them.

Most of the incidents for which ASBOs are imposed could be dealt with under the old offense of Causing a Breach of the Peace -- but that wouldn't be a "tough on crime" election propaganda win for New Labour.
posted by cstross at 8:46 AM on March 15, 2005

If they tried to implement this in NYC it would quickly lead to full employment - with every warm body in the city needed just to process the paperwork.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:49 AM on March 15, 2005

A 55-year-old Portsmouth man has been given an Asbo against parking his car in a disabled parking space. It wasn't his space, and when its 86-year-old intended user asked him to move his vehicle, he reportedly called her "village pond life".

He is reportedly the UK's first person to be specifically banned from parking in a disabled space.

I think this is one of the ASBOs mentioned that I would love to see imported to the States.
posted by cmonkey at 8:56 AM on March 15, 2005

Or you could just fine people who park in disabled spaces or even tow their cars. Oh, wait..
posted by fshgrl at 8:57 AM on March 15, 2005

this could be done very right or it could go very wrong.

This is kind of how things are done in mexico, no? This type of legal system does foster community ties. Much more so than the monstrous red-tape bureaucracy machine the US uses for even the smallest offences.
You can say, of course, that mexico is full of crime and the police are crooked, but many Mexicans think the US is full of crime and the police are crooked, so whatever.

and it could still go very, very witch-huntingly wrong....
posted by es_de_bah at 8:58 AM on March 15, 2005

good point, bashos-frog. I don't really think this would work well in the states. we're a bit far gone in most parts.
posted by es_de_bah at 9:01 AM on March 15, 2005

Obviously ASBOs are a grim harbinger of the impending collapse and failure of the American soci -- er.
posted by fleacircus at 9:17 AM on March 15, 2005

This article gets extra points for the pic of Mrs. Slocombe and Miss Brahms.
posted by BoringPostcards at 9:26 AM on March 15, 2005

BoringPostcards: You really have to wonder about people who feel their lives are being ruined by some woman wandering around her own house in her underwear. Could she not get one to prevent them from looking in through her windows constantly?
Has MeFi previously discussed the poor woman who was ASBO'd to prevent her causing distress to members of the public by trying to commit suicide?
posted by biffa at 10:48 AM on March 15, 2005

What a sticky wicket.

Thought 1: I love ASBOs. I'd like a dozen, to go. I know just who I'll use 'em on.

Thought 2: Can you imagine how quickly the US would become horrifyingly Big Brotherish if we had ASBOs under this administration? Fuggedaboutit!

Yeah -- our system lets annoying people drag on their annoying behavior for years until they commit an actual crime. But if it's the same system that prevents government thugs from rifling through my undie drawer whenever they please, then I'll take it.
posted by Miko at 10:49 AM on March 15, 2005

OK, I can see where the ASBOs are coming from in most cases ... but how is it "anti-social" to answer the door in underwear? Assuming she's not showing too much (which is pretty much illegal if you're not careful anyway) I don't see how any laws are being broken or any harm is being caused. What, is she deliberately and with malice aforethought deliberately answering the door while she knows men with dodgy hearts are around, or something? Are the neighbours worried their nine-year olds are being exposed to too much lace? I think I'd be appealing that one, too.
posted by kaemaril at 11:24 AM on March 15, 2005

I want to know what Quonsar thinks of this.
posted by davy at 11:39 AM on March 15, 2005

Oh good grief, is there no escape? I've just spent the afternoon writing about these God forsaken things for law school finals.

Breach of the peace isn't without its own problems but I have much bigger problems with ASBOs being used to restrict political protest.

I'm not wild about the ASBO reduced standard of proof but low level nuisance crime is at epidemic levels in British inner cities and for the most part the police are simply impotent. Try owning a Vespa in London...

On preview: how is it "anti-social" to answer the door in underwear?
ASBOs for this? Sounds like a breach of Article 8 of ECHR to me. No doubt there's a judicial review lawyer somewhere rubbing his hands and polishing his shoes.
posted by dmt at 11:43 AM on March 15, 2005

A more disturbing use of ASBO's is this recent case
The 23-year-old was rescued three times from the River Avon in Bath last year after trying to take her life.
She was also found hanging from a railway parapet and police had to stop trains to rescue her.
Magistrates granted an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo)
posted by Lanark at 12:39 PM on March 15, 2005

My personal favorite:

Wrongly accused of eating the flowers from graves in Stroud, Gloucestershire, Colin the pet black sheep was banned from the cemetery and threatened with an Asbo.

"I warned [the owner] that if the sheep was guilty then it could face possible action under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act," one local official recalled.

Fortunately things never went that far, after a pair of wild deer were spotted munching the flowers.

Not all stories have a happy ending though. Less than three months after his ordeal Colin has passed away.

But yeah, this is one of those things that would be brilliant if you're dictator and terrible if not. Plus, as monju notes, in New York, we'd all have an ABSO slapped on us about half an hour after they were available.
posted by dame at 12:51 PM on March 15, 2005

"Repent, Harlequin!" said the Ticktockman.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:57 PM on March 15, 2005

As an American who lives in London I do have to say that the sort of petty crimes / drunken violence that ASBO's are intended to fight are disturbingly, amazingly commonplace. I would say it is one of the biggest shocks for all of the expats I work with.

And its not like my former places of residence (NYC and DC) are exactly noted for their gentility.

However ASBO's do seem like the sort of thing with the huge potential for abuse by the government. Nor do they seem to do much in the way of preventing the creation of new anti-social hooligans.
posted by JPD at 1:01 PM on March 15, 2005

ASBOs are fantastic. Oh, to think of the horrors that could've been perpetrated had criminal types not been stopped from crossing their road, wearing a single golf glove or a balaclava, and using the word "grass".
posted by terpsichoria at 3:04 PM on March 15, 2005

JPD: What kind of petty crimes? I know the UK has a pretty amazing amount of drunken violence compared to the US (visiting my friend in Bristol, when I suggested we go to the town center for drinks on Saturday, all of his friends who were with us looked at me like I was insane, and said, essentially, "Unless you want to get beat up, we would recommend against it"). But I don't know much about the petty crime end of the UK. Any examples?
posted by Bugbread at 1:09 AM on March 16, 2005

bugbread the kind of petty crime you get in the UK mostly seems to be of the mindless destruction variety. I lived in the UK (northern city) for 18 months during which time the neighbourhood kids probably made 100+ attempts to break into our house, at least two dozen people I knew (mostly foreigners or southerners) were assaulted randomly on the street or in a bar and every public fixture that could be was destroyed multiple times. Public drunkeness was a problem: young kids (12-13) would openly smoke weed and drink on buses and trains and seeing older kids smoking crack or dope wasn't uncommon. Nobody ever said a word. The sidewalks were literally awash with vomit and urine every morning and I lived blocks from any pubs and miles from any nightclubs. All the stores were boarded up like Fort Knox come 5pm.

In the UK most people are polite and law-abiding, you are under near constant surveillance by CCTV and US-style extreme poverty is pretty much non-existant yet petty crime and aggression are commonplace. It's odd. In the US when I lived in the 'hood, next door to a crackhouse I got less shit stolen and less hassle.
posted by fshgrl at 3:13 AM on March 16, 2005

I would say there's a culture of fear in some parts of the UK which deters a lot of people from going out into major cities on weekend evenings because of the fear of violence, however, as someone who used to live in Coventry I'd day the fear is largely misplaced. There is some violence but it is largely not a problem if you don't get involved in it, and it's not that easy to avoid doing so.

terpsochoria: the 'grass' story sounds ridiculous but it was clearly some kid making someone else's life hell by using it as a term of abuse along with a list of other abusive terms, which seems a fair cause for action to me. The same sort of thing applies to a number of the stories covered in the press, clearly it's in the interests of the paper to have more ridiculous stories.
posted by biffa at 5:29 AM on March 16, 2005

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