Thursday 22 September 2005

The Misuse of Asbos

Newham Council proudly announced on Tuesday that an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (Asbo) has been imposed on a youth from Custom House for throwing a stone at a bus, smashing its window and shattering the glass over a female passenger, as well as involvement in car crime and threatening people on more than one occasion.

However, these actions are all criminal offences. Specifically, the youth has been prohibited under the order from "throwing or threatening to throw any missile at a person, property or vehicle anywhere in the Greater London area" - but this would be a criminal offence too.

So why weren't criminal charges brought and why wouldn't they be in the future?

Perhaps it is because Asbos are imposed under civil law, with a lower burden of proof. They can be made solely on the basis of hearsay evidence and legal niceties like having a defence counsel are done away with. Civil law standards also apply to breaches of an Asbo once it has been applied, but breaching an Asbo is a criminal offence and would result in a detention and training order for up to 24 months, of which 12 months could be custodial and 12 months in the community.

There is little evidence that Asbos actually work and Home Office figures show that more than 40% have been breached.

For more information on Asbos, see Asbo Concern's

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