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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 January 2006, 03:03 GMT
Asbos and orders: A glossary
By Dominic Casciani
BBC News community affairs

Since Labour came to power in 1997, the government has introduced a wide range of measures to deal with anti-social behaviour in society. Click below to see what the powers are and how are they being used?

Anti-Social Behaviour Order (Asbo)

This is the key concept and was introduced in 1998.

Behaviour is considered anti-social if it causes, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm and distress. In practice, that broad concept can cover a whole range of activity.

An Asbo is not a criminal penalty: It is a civil court order usually sought by a local council which bans behaviour in order to protect the public. But authorities do have powers to publicise the names of those subject to orders and place their names on the Police National Computer.

The classic example would be an Asbo against a persistent "neighbour from hell" who blights the lives of those around him, or against a known graffiti artist, banning them from the local train station. Orders are recorded in the Police National Computer system.

If someone breaches an Asbo, that's a criminal matter which can lead to both a fine and jail sentence. Someone under the age of 18 can be given a two-year detention and training order.

The Environment Agency is the latest body to gain powers to seek Asbos while local councils are particularly keen on the "Crasbo" - an order made as part of a criminal conviction.

As of the end of 2005, more than 6,500 Asbos had been made by the courts, some 43% of them against juveniles.

Individual Support Orders (ISO)

A power introduced in 2003, ISOs are imposed on juveniles aged between 10 and 17 as an attempt to "positively" help them end anti-social behaviour.

The orders can last for up to six months and, at the very least, require the juvenile to attend sessions with specialists such as drugs counsellors and psychologists expert in anger-management. An ISO is usually issued to a juvenile subject to an Asbo.

A key element of the thinking behind the ISO is to get parents to play their role: breach of an ISO by the child can lead to the parent being fined.

Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (ABCs)

These are voluntary contracts, the idea behind them being to force the individual to recognise how their behaviour is affecting others and do something about it.

Anyone can be subject to an ABC but they are used mostly against juveniles.

The contract is tailored to the individual and their behaviour. If an ABC is breached, all the bodies involved - typically the police, local council and educationalists - must decide on next steps, such as whether to go for an Asbo.

Parenting contracts and orders

The two anti-social behaviour acts introduced powers that target parents of unruly children.

Parenting contracts very specifically try to engage the parent to do something about their offspring. They typically include good parenting classes where the adults are encouraged to think about their own behaviour and responsibility towards the juvenile.

Parenting orders are the next step - and can lead to far more serious sanctions. Magistrates' courts tend to make parenting orders if the child is involved in criminal or anti-social behaviour and the parents have failed to comply with a parenting contract.

They can require a parent to attend classes for three months while also placing specific court-mandated obligations on them to deal with the juvenile's behaviour. In extreme circumstances, an entire family can be ordered to attend a residential course.

Between October 2003 and September 2005 almost 1,000 parenting orders and contracts were issued.

On-the-spot fines

One of the earliest proposals from Tony Blair was to march louts to cash points and get them to hand over cash to police officers immediately. The idea from quickly dropped amid opposition from police chiefs.

But out of that came the idea for penalty notices - fixed fines issued in the same way as parking tickets.

These have been designed to be the "first stage of intervention", the idea being that the police can challenge initial anti-social behaviour without the delays of council deliberations and court time.

The fines are issued for petty anti-social behaviour such as drunkenness, throwing of fireworks and harassing neighbours and truancy.

Seven areas of the UK are piloting controversial powers to issue the fines to children aged between 10 and 15 - meaning their parents pay. A decision on extending these powers comes later in 2006.

Curfew and dispersal powers

These powers effectively ban children from public places and allow police to deal with them if they do not comply.

While the measures received a rough ride through Parliament, many police officers wholly support them saying they are extremely effective.

Councils can seek a Local Child Curfew Order for up to 90 days at a time. This requires all children under 16 in a designated area must be at home after 9pm, unless accompanied by an adult.

The separate dispersal power, first used in 2004, gives police the power to break-up groups of two or more individuals in an effort to remove intimidation and anti-social behaviour from the streets.

Gangs of youths causing nuisance near shops, or drinking in public places, are typically the target of this power.

The critical element of the dispersal order is that it lasts for 24 hours. If a youth does not comply with an order to go home - usually by sneaking back into the area from which they have just been banned - a police officer can arrest them.

In effect this has the "one-strike-and-you're-out" effect: if the trouble-maker does not comply, and is caught, they'll be spending the night in the police cells.

Binge drinking

Being "drunk and disorderly" was an offence long-before this government came to office.

New powers include giving nuisance drunks an Asbo - such as banning them from a city centre or from licensed premises. This has proved extremely controversial with some charities which say that it has been used to target vulnerable homeless people with deep-seated mental health problems.

Councils have powers to create alcohol-free zones while the 2003 Licensing Act, which has recently come into force, introduces new fines for alcohol-fuelled crime.

Police have powers to ask the courts to close premises or events in areas known for alcohol abuse. Local residents can also ask for a licence to be reviewed, for instance if they believe a corner shop is selling alcohol to children.


The 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act gave police the power to close premises known to be selling drugs - the idea being that they could target crack houses to help clean up an area even if individual drug pushers have not been caught.

Crucially, breaching a notice by trying to re-use the building becomes a more serious offence similar to breaching an Asbo.

This is a power that Mr Blair now wants to expand to cover any kind of property thought to be a centre of nuisance or criminal behaviour. This has already proved controversial with housing charities saying banning people from their own homes will be disastrous.

Community Support Officers (CSOs) and neighbourhood wardens

CSOs are not police officers - but are part of the police service and have some of the powers.

Their duty is to help the police tackle anti-social behaviour and provide a highly visible street presence. They can issue on-the-spot fines and detain somebody while waiting for a police officer to arrive to make an arrest.

Neighbourhood wardens work for local councils as the "eyes and ears" on the ground. Large estates or trouble hot spots such as city centres tend to have wardens who patrol, report litter, fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour.

Of all the measures, the future of wardens is the most uncertain: their funding is dependent on grants from government and decisions by individual councils.

Social housing

Social landlords - meaning housing associations and local councils - also have powers to tackle anti-social behaviour - although some of them were in force before Labour came to power.

Housing-specific anti-social behaviour injunctions (now known as ASBIs) can be used to try to control behaviour, the idea being it may be better to try to get them to stop it rather than move the problem elsewhere. They were originally introduced by the Conservatives, but modified by Labour.

Between 2003 and the end of 2005 there were just over 1,900 injunctions. Breaching an injunction can lead to two years in prison.

Another power for social landlords is the "demoted tenancy". This is a court order that reduces the rights of someone to stay in a property - in effect a threat to evict should the behaviour not improve.


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