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The rise of the ASBO

May 19th 2009

Homelessness, however it arises, automatically categorises you as vulnerable in the eyes of the law. Homeless people are more likely to be victims of crime and anti-social behaviour. But, unfortunately, they are often categorised as the perpetrators of anti-social crimes. Here The Pavement examines Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, and how they could affect or protect you.

First, what is an ASBO? Anti-Social Behaviour Orders are court orders obtained by local authorities and are intended to prohibit "anti-social" acts. They are unlimited in their power to prohibit any sort of behaviour deemed "anti-social". This could include disturbing the peace, harassment, being drunk and disorderly, and an almost unlimited number of things in between. ASBOs last for a minimum of two years but can be extended indefinitely. A total of 364 ASBOs were issued in Greater London between April 1999 and September 2004, but over 200 of these were issued in the first nine months of 2004. In other words, their use is rising fast.

Any individual older than 10 can receive a court summons and then be slapped with an ASBO, and it does not matter if they do not have a fixed address. In fact, an ASBO can be granted even if the individual is unable to attend the court hearing. British legal process operates on two fundamental concepts: presumed innocence and the right to a fair trial.

But ASBOs can be given even if someone's anti-social behaviour is not actually illegal in itself. It's a crime to break the terms of an ASBO, and it carries a possible five-year jail sentence. Moreover, Figures released by the Home Office reveal that by December 2003, 42 per cent of ASBOs had been breached.

In ASBO proceedings (unlike criminal proceedings), previous convictions and "hearsay" evidence (when a witness does not actually have to attend court) are examined by the court. This is intended to protect the victims of anti-social behaviour, but means safeguards preventing the defendant from abuse of legal process are relaxed.

April 2005



Outreach teams to be axed

Day centre fends off closure

The rise of the ASBO

The trouble with an ASBO

Trench foot and getting a GP

Homeless hobbies: No 1 - Collecting Chick books

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