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Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Wednesday, 22 September 2004 11:25 UK

The war against hats....

Novel Asbos

Did you hear the one about the man who isn't allowed to wear a hat? It's just one example of the increasingly inventive use of Asbos. The Magazine is keeping tabs.

There is unrest in Cardiff, where up to 100 stray horses have been roaming the city streets. They belong to travellers, say locals. One horse chased a 12-year-old girl. Action is needed. An Asbo has been rumoured.


Asbos - anti-social behaviour orders - are a cornerstone of Tony Blair's commitment to crack down on the sort of everyday nuisance acts that blight communities but, in the past, police have been largely powerless to act on.

Each Asbo is a civil order tailored by the courts against a named individual, forbidding him or her from repeating specific "anti-social" acts. Breaking the Asbo could land the offender in prison.

As Asbos become more widespread, the courts have become bolder and more inventive about how to frame such orders, leading to some pretty novel, sometimes bizarre, examples.

BBC News Online Magazine is keeping an eye on the most unusual or interesting.


Wearing a woolly hat, baseball cap or hooded top now comes with unusual risks for 21-year-old Christopher Wood.

The prolific car thief was banned from sporting the head gear after officials told Teesside magistrates it was crucial he should not be able to disguise himself from CCTV operators and police.

"There's no point in getting the order if we can't see him," the court was told. Woods, from Stockton-on-Tees, was also banned from entering car parks.

In Manchester two brothers, aged 11 and 12, were banned from wearing balaclavas. They made residents' lives "a nightmare", as part of a gang who wore the masks when throwing stones at homes and shouting racist abuse.

In nearby Oldham, a 19-year-old faces censure if he continues to have the name of his gang shaved in his head.


Asbos map
1. Car thief mustn't wear hat
2. NHS ban over surgical masks
3. No ball games in street
4. Man, 87, to end harassment
5. Eminem fan's stereo taken
6. Problem drinker's booze ban
7. Conman gets doorbell ban
8. Pimp's red light area ban
9. No matches for child arsonist
10. 999 ban
Knocking on the front door of any home in Britain could now land a 30-year-old Londoner in jail.

The man was also banned from using doorbells or phoning households without permission. He had stolen from 250 elderly people after entering their homes by posing as a milkman, a policeman, or simply by asking for a glass of water.

The flexibility of Asbos has led to similarly tailored conditions being imposed on other criminals, and nuisance neighbours.

A football fan whose 11-hour kick-abouts caused damage to cars, gardens and houses has been banned from playing ball games in the street outside his home in Manchester.

Then there's the ban on fly-posting in Camden; the order against loitering on the London Underground for ticket touts and the 14-year-old ordered not to disrupt school classes.

Age is no barrier. One 10-year-old in Bath, who caused 80,000 of arson damage, is banned from having matches until he turns 16. And on Merseyside, an 87-year-old is banned from harassing neighbours, including videoing them.


Novel Asbos
An Eminem and Dido fan who incessantly played the musicians' songs at top volume was banned last month from owning a stereo, radio, or TV. It was the first order of its kind.

The volume at which the 33-year-old Birmingham woman listened to the tunes was so great that furniture in neighbouring flats moved. The decibel level was equivalent to a train passing.

The woman, who previously had thousands of pounds worth of CDs and a karaoke machine confiscated, was also ordered to move home.

Elsewhere in the Midlands it was not the volume of the music, but its offensive nature that saw an Asbo served on one middle-aged couple. After upsetting staff and parents at a nursery near their Worksop home they were banned from playing gangsta rap or swearing in front of children.


Some Asbos aren't easily categorised, their conditions as unusual as the behaviour they are designed to curb.

Novel Asbos
A ban from all NHS buildings in the country was handed to a man with a fetish for medical supplies, after he tried to get hold of surgical masks on 47 occasions this year alone.

York Crown Court heard the 53-year-old hounded doctors and nurses for 16 years, once faking a heart attack just to get into an operating theatre.

In Essex, a 38-year-old woman was banned from abusing the emergency services, after she called 999 38 times in nine months. A court heard she pretended to be unconscious and swore at ambulance crews who went to treat her, forcing them to take a police escort.

A similar case in Hove, Sussex saw a woman banned from dialling 999 after she made hundreds of hoax calls and also rang the NHS Direct advice line more than 240 times.

In Camden a barrister was served an Asbo after noisily banging her mop against her floors and walls.

And in Wirral, a man was banned from assaulting and verbally abusing bin men after they were so intimidated by his behaviour they stopped collecting rubbish from his street.


Novel Asbos
Alcohol-fuelled misdemeanours have long been a source of frustration, with warnings about binge drinking repeated by the government and health officials ad infinitum.

Asbos have provided a new way of dealing with some of the worst offenders, who can be jailed if they are caught with a drink.

Last month a 47-year-old man from Cheltenham was handed an eight-month sentence for breaking such an order. He's not the only one being targeted.

On Monday a 21-year-old Northants man was banned from being drunk in any public place in Corby for two years.

And in Liverpool a 51-year-old with 35 drunk and disorderly convictions has been told he could get five years in jail if he is found drunk anywhere on Merseyside.


Novel Asbos
Police have found some of the worst excesses of red light districts can be controlled by skilful use of Asbos.

In Clifton a 24-year-old man accused of pimping was banned from entering an area known for prostitution for two years.

In Middlesbrough kerb crawlers have found themselves the subject of Asbos, while a prostitute in Edinburgh was banned from setting foot in a red light area.

Indecent exposure has also been dealt with using Asbos. A 38-year-old from Taunton now faces prosecution if he exposes himself in public.


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