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Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2006, 12:59 GMT
A potted guide to Asbos
Prison Warder
The man that Asbos are meant to keep recipients away from
This week, Max Cotton looks at the balance between freedom and security, after a Queen's Speech containing more legislation to tackle "anti social behaviour".

One of the highest-profile parts of efforts in recent years has been the Asbo, but what is an Asbo, how do they work, and how many have been handed out?

Asbo stands for anti-social behaviour order.

They are civil orders, given out by magistrates' courts and ban somebody over the age of 10-years-old from engaging in anti-social behaviour, usually in a particular place.

The local police, local authorities, housing trusts and registered social landlords can apply to their local magistrates' court for an Asbo to be given out.

What for..?

Asbos can be given for harassment of residents or passers-by, verbal abuse, criminal damage, vandalism, noise nuisance, graffiti, engaging in threatening behaviour in large groups, racial abuse, underage smoking and drinking, drug abuse, joyriding, begging, prostitution or kerb-crawling, throwing missiles, assault and vehicle crime.

The minimum period for an Asbo is two years, but there is no maximum period. For young people, they should be reviewed every year.

It is a criminal offence to breach an Asbo, and doing so can attract a prison sentence of up to five years.

How many..?

They were first given out in 1999, as part of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

Man in handcuffs
Asbos are intended to keep this to a minimum

In all, 7,356 Asbos were given out in England and Wales between 1999 and September 2005. Just 62 applications were rejected.

The most recent statistics (2000-03) suggest 40% of Asbos were breached, and of those breaching their Asbos, 30% went to prison.

Some councils are more enthusiastic about Asbos than others - 14% of all Asbos were handed out in Greater Manchester.

A panacea..?

Also, some parties have been more enthusiastic about Asbos than others - Labour introduced them and Labour councils (like Manchester) have been amongst the most enthusiastic proponents; the Liberal Democrats were very critical of Asbos initially and some Lib Dem councils have been less ready to apply for them.

The government's crime reduction website states: "The orders had delivered real improvement in the quality of life to communities around the country¿ its use of civil law procedures and the wide powers granted to courts to impose conditions once satisfied that an Asbo was necessary were widely welcomed".

Asbo opponents say: "Asbos are targeting the vulnerable so the government can win votes", Matt Foot - Asbo Concern.


Join Jon Sopel and guests for the Politics Show on Sunday 19 November 2006 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.

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