View Full Version : Anti-social Behavior Orders - Good Idea?
March-16th-2005, 02:32 PM
The war against hats.... (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3674430.stm)
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.
BAD HAIR DAYS
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.
YOU CAN'T RING MY BELL
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.
GANGSTA RAP AND BAD LANGUAGE
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.
MOPS, MASKS AND MISCELLANY
Some Asbos aren't easily categorised, their conditions as unusual as the behaviour they are designed to curb.
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.
NIL BY MOUTH
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.
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.
March-16th-2005, 02:33 PM
Asbowatch II: Wheel clamp terror (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3979263.stm)
You can't just clamp cars because you want to. It's official. One man who did just that is among the latest recipients of an Asbo. The Magazine is keeping tabs.
It's been another busy few weeks for fans of the Asbo, or anti-social behaviour order. No sooner had it been announced that one third of all the orders were broken that new plans to up the war on yobs were unveiled.
Noise-makers, graffiti artists and litter louts will all be open to council-imposed fines under government proposals.
And Tony Blair said the number of special courts dealing with anti-social behaviour would be tripled, while witnesses in such cases would be offered greater protection.
Meanwhile, there was no let-up in the number of Asbos actually being issued. Here are some of the most original.
WHEEL CLAMP TERROR
In a case to warm the hearts of motorists everywhere, magistrates successfully turned the power of the Asbo against a rogue wheel clamper.
A 38-year-old public "menace" from Portsmouth was handed a five-year order for "intimidating and harassing" drivers and "causing distress".
Not only was he clamping cars parked on land where he had no licence to operate, but he once impounded a police car.
He was also reported to have tried to clamp two cars as they performed three-point-turns.
He was believed to be one of the first clampers in the UK to be given an Asbo.
A family accused of damaging property, driving recklessly, threatening neighbours and using abusive language have been banned from going out together.
After hearing of the plight of their neighbours on Merseyside, a court told the mother, father and three sons - aged 16 to 20 - they can only leave their homes in pairs.
They are also banned from meeting more than one friend at a time and face a 2300 to 0700 curfew.
A CCTV camera has been installed on their road to make sure they abide by the order.
The temporary Asbo, in force until a further court hearing on 6 December, is thought to be the first used against a whole family.
It is often tearaway children who cause the most distress to their communities, a problem Asbos are frequently used to tackle - with orders tailored to the individual troublemaker.
In Atwick, Yorkshire, a 17-year-old youth has been banned from throwing mud at windows. Or eggs for that matter.
He has also been banned from causing damage to flowers and plant pots when entering gardens without the owner's permission.
Down in Warwickshire a 15-year-old boy known for his disruptive and aggressive behaviour has been banned from swearing and using violence, or threats of violence, against people "not of his household".
Quite what that means for people unfortunate enough to live with him is unclear.
PICNIC SITE SEX
There have been too many people enjoying the great outdoors in one corner of Lincolnshire.
Families visiting the Stickney picnic area on the A16 were upset to find they were sharing it with men meeting for casual sex.
After unsuccessfully trying to reclaim the area for villagers by holding a party there, residents decided to ask for Asbos to be handed to their unwanted guests.
"We've got a local guide troop that have been excluded from the picnic area because of the nature of these acts," said parish councillor Brian Wood.
Should it be decided that Asbos can be used to tackle the problem, locals will be asked to report any lewd acts they spot.
"At one point I had 12 footballs which had been confiscated from him in barely two weeks," said a despairing policeman charged with tackling one soccer mad youngster's behaviour.
Not only did the 15-year-old use bus stops as goalposts, but he had no regard for the fact other people were trying to use the street he considered his pitch.
"It was not uncommon to see him in the middle of the road with traffic backed up in both directions while he kicked the ball 30 to 40ft up in the air," said the officer
Not any more - the County Durham youngster has been banned from playing football in the street, on pain of an Asbo-enforced punishment.
It is an idea which some want to see extended to the world of professional football.
Following the fracas which accompanied the recent Manchester United vs Arsenal game, Liberal Democrat Lord Dholakia said misbehaving stars should be made an example of.
"What happens on the football field is as important as what happens outside the grounds," he said.
Lord Dholakia asked a government spokesman: "If the Football Association, or for that matter those in charge, cannot take appropriate action, would you not recommend to the police the use of the government's much-publicised anti-social behaviour order against some of these people?"
A gang who intimidated residents of Gorton, Manchester, quickly turned on a glamorous new target when a TV crew arrived on their estate.
The crew of the hit Channel 4 series Shameless were "persistently interrupted" as they tried to film the series earlier this year.
Police were called and the youths identified - including 16-year-old Steven Birchall.
On Wednesday he was banned from acting anti-socially anywhere in England or Wales.
March-16th-2005, 02:35 PM
Asbowatch III: A dancing werewolf (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4078813.stm)
Escaping pigs are the focus of the latest unusual anti-social behaviour order, after they kept making their way under their owner's fence. He's not the only one being targeted with an inventive order.
Pig farmer Brian Hagan is believed to have become the first farmer to be the subject of an Asbo. He was told to keep his swine and geese under control after people living nearby complained of them causing damage.
The order was made on Monday of this week, but on Tuesday he was charged with allegedly breaching the order after reports that the pigs had escaped again.
Mr Hagan's order is just one of many inventive uses of Asbos - which come with the threat of fines and up to five years in jail - in recent weeks. The Magazine is keeping tabs.
'YES, WE KNOW IT'S CHRISTMAS'
Long before the release of Band Aid 20, the residents of one West Lothian street were sick of the charitable doings of Bob Geldof and friends.
Armed with a copy of the original version of Do They Know It's Christmas? a 26-year-old man destroyed his neighbours' festive spirit by repeatedly playing the song at top volume.
The people living in the flat downstairs started keeping a noise diary - which soon ran to some 300 pages.
"I used to like that Feed The World song, but last Christmas he played it dozens of times daily," said one.
Things might be different this year - an Asbo has banned him from playing loud music, stamping his feet and dropping objects.
A DANCING WEREWOLF
The experience of watching American Werewolf in London had profound effects for one film fan - and his neighbours.
The 28-year-old was so moved by the 1980s horror that he took to making wolverine howls for hours on end.
Alarmed neighbours who went to investigate the first outbreak saw him standing on his windowsill and pretending to dance with a Christmas tree while moaning loudly.
An Asbo banning him from shouting, swearing, banging windows, moaning and dumping rubbish was not enough. The howls continued and he was duly jailed for two months in August.
He has since been jailed for four months and will be spending Christmas in prison.
'I ASBO YOU'
Their passion for one another was fierce and, like Romeo and Juliet, their love forbidden.
It was the endless blazing rows that led to society's scorn - and an Asbo barring the couple from contacting one another.
Indeed, the 47-year-old man was told not to go within 50m of the home of his 48-year-old fiancée.
He said the order was "completely over the top" and magistrates in Blackburn eventually backed down, overturning the order.
Police may have been called to deal with the couple's rows more than 100 times, but there is no keeping them apart.
'HI, I CAN'T BE TRUSTED'
A trip to the High Street has become that little bit more stressful for one East Yorkshire man with some 83 shoplifting convictions.
Whenever he enters a shop in the Hull and East Riding area, the 35-year-old must tell staff about his record.
The order lasts three years and means the prolific tea leaf risks jail if he neglects to mention who he is - even if he's just buying a pint of milk.
Poster bearing his picture, details and name have been sent to shops across the area to make things extra awkward for him.
ON THE LINE
Having tried to convince a former school friend's parents that their daughter had been kidnapped and forced into prostitution, Angela Sarna of Brierley Hill, West Midlands, was jailed for two years.
But because she made phone calls and sent text messages to carry out the scam, she was also handed a very specific Asbo.
For the next five years she has been banned from using a pay-as-you-go mobile, using a mobile phone that is not in her name, or using a mobile to make nuisance calls.
Police said the kidnapping investigation they used took up 640 hours of officers' time, before Sarna, 21, was tracked.
Phone calls also landed Julie Roberts of Port Talbot in a spot of bother.
The 43-year-old made 765 nuisance 999 calls in less than a year - on one occasion complaining that she was having trouble tuning her TV.
She has received an interim ban stopping her from calling the emergency services unless there really is a crisis.
ON THE BUSES, OFF THE GRASS
Riding on the top deck and indulging child-like notions of being a bus driver is no longer an option for one Birmingham youth.
After a string of assaults carried out on the upper decks of the city's fleet, the 17-year-old was told he can only travel where the driver and other passengers can see him.
"If you can prevent him from going on the upper decks of buses, it's going to stop him committing these offences," a West Midlands Police spokesman was quoted as saying.
Teenage criminality was also the focus of an Asbo handed to a 17-year-old in Oldham.
He has been banned from using the word "grass" as a term of abuse against people who stood up to him.
The youth has also been banned from using other abusive language and throwing missiles.
In Harrogate, police want to go further - by completely banning persistent criminals from the town.
They have asked magistrates to consider an Asbo preventing known offenders for crimes like burglary from even setting
March-16th-2005, 02:37 PM
Asbowatch IV: Behind the mask (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4212859.stm)
Asbos - anti-social behaviour orders - are a cornerstone of the government's onslaught on crime. The civil orders are tailored to individual troublemakers in a bid to stamp out bad behaviour in communities.
The specific nature of each Asbo can make interesting reading, as the latest batch of examples below illustrates.
'JUST GOOD FRIENDS'
When two elderly men did their little bit for community relations, it failed to impress fellow residents of their sheltered accommodation.
Police were called to their flats in Edgbaston, Birmingham, amid complaints that they were being used by drug-taking prostitutes.
The pair reportedly claimed that they had simply made "friends" with the call girls and that they were not bringing back any clients.
The men, aged 67 and 64, were given an interim Asbo preventing them from having any further contact with the women and have been warned they could be evicted from the housing scheme.
BEHIND THE MASK
A man with a fetish for surgical masks is now behind bars and banned from all NHS premises in the UK.
Described as a "menace" by a judge at Leeds Crown Court, Norman Hutchins, 53, of York, would tell staff he needed the masks for amateur dramatics or charity fun runs.
Hutchins, who pleaded guilty to obtaining property by deception, using threatening and abusive behaviour and possessing a knife, was said to have hounded NHS staff 47 times in five months.
After his three-year prison sentence ends he will have to abide by the terms of the Asbo - which also bans him from all private medical practices.
Advertising in newspapers as "Jak - a building contractor", David Flaherty was not all he claimed to be.
The 40-year-old Mancunian offered extensions at a fixed price, but simply took homeowners' money without doing the work.
The cowboy contractor, who "preyed on the trust and gullibility of others" and has 56 previous convictions, admitted at Mold Crown Court to three offences of deception and one of a £13,000 theft.
In addition to a three-and-a-half year jail sentence he was handed an Asbo banning him advertising his services, or working in the building industry - unless it is for a bona fide construction company.
'I'M ROUND THE BACK'
The walk home has got a little bit longer for one angry young man, who has been banned from his own street for four years.
While 17-year-old Luke Davies is still allowed to live at his house in Cwmbran, south Wales, he can only come and go via a back alley.
His Asbo was imposed after magistrates heard he harassed his neighbours, attacked homes, shouted obscenities and had to be subdued by police with CS gas.
The prosecution said Davies, who did not contest the order, needed to be kept away from fellow residents, so they could "live their lives freely".
NEVER TOO YOUNG - OR OLD
Reports that they fired at residents, windows and cars, did not bode well for a pair of 10-year-old twins in Norfolk.
Neither did things improve for the boys when they were accused of peering in windows, shouting abuse, swearing, fighting and playing loud music.
Unimpressed magistrates decided to hand the brothers an interim Asbo aimed at ending their unruly behaviour - making them the youngest known recipients of such an order.
A little older, but not a great deal wiser, is 13-year-old Jon Smee, who was sentenced to four months youth custody after being convicted as one of Britain's youngest known drink-drivers.
Smee, who was driving a stolen car being chased by police, had been banned from driving twice before. He also had a supervision order and an Asbo, which was handed down for criminal damage and racially aggravated behaviour.
Noting that none of these measures had seemed to work, magistrates in Salford decided custody was the way forward.
At the other end of the scale, a 74-year-old accused of abusing her neighbours is thought to have become the oldest woman to receive an Asbo.
She has been told to stop verbally abusing them. And to stop writing the poison pen letters.
Finally, some good news for the Norfolk farmer accused of breaching an interim Asbo when his pigs kept escaping will no longer have to face trial, according to his lawyer.
Brian Hagan, 62, had been facing a tough penalty after his animals allegedly ignored the order - designed to protect his neighbours' property.
Police and the local council were due to make the Asbo permanent but withdrew the case because there was not enough evidence.
March-16th-2005, 02:38 PM
Asbowatch V: War on a G-string (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4319653.stm)
Rattled by the UK's apparent love affair with the anti-social behaviour order, concerned parties are to set up a campaign group next month.
Asbo Concern plans to highlight what it calls the "irresponsible" use of the civil orders which, they claim, wrongly criminalise people.
But it could be a tough corner to fight. Asbos remain at the heart of government policy and - as this latest selection of unusual applications of the initiative highlights - their flexibility continues to turn-up interesting new uses.
Lacking the decorum expected of her by neighbours, one young Scot has been banned from answering the front door in her underwear.
The 27-year-old also faces the threat of jail if she is seen in her garden or windows in just knickers and a bra.
The mother-of-two suggested fellow residents of East Kilbride got hot under the collar after she wore an Ann Summers bikini to do the gardening one steamy summer's day.
"Okay, so it gave me a bit of cleavage, but I don't think I was doing anything wrong," the Daily Record reported her as saying.
She has been granted legal aid to fight the interim order which, she says, was the result of a "witch-hunt" that began when her neighbours were given Asbo diaries to record what she was up to.
A man addicted to sniffing fuel is now in jail after breaking an Asbo which banned him from petrol station forecourts across Teesside.
Brian Taylor, 36, terrorised staff and customers after cutting pipes, sniffing petrol and dancing unnervingly. His habit of slashing hoses didn't particularly help his case after customers ended up soaked in fuel.
Taylor was jailed for three months after being caught out on CCTV.
Sgt Brian Tams of Cleveland Police said: "Now that he has been imprisoned in breach of his Asbo there may be a chance he can rehabilitate himself with the help of the prison services."
After being rescued from the River Avon three times last year in failed suicide attempts, a 23-year-old woman has been banned from jumping into rivers or canals.
The Asbo also says she must not jump on to train lines, as she was also found hanging from a railway parapet and police had to stop trains to rescue her.
The terms of the order say she must not do anything which could cause alarm or distress to the public.
Marjorie Wallace of mental health charity Sane was unimpressed. "'An Asbo could make a person even more determined to go through with a suicide attempt," she said.
WAR OF WORDS
Sometimes it's the way you put things that matters, a point that has now been impressed upon one Manchester man.
Years of abuse saw the 50-year-old label neighbours "druggies", "council scum", "trash", "fairy" and "Army boy".
Magistrates were told he bombarded police with false accusations of drug dealing among those living nearby.
He has been banned from claiming anyone is "involved in suspicious activity and drug dealing".
A Manchester father-of-five has escaped an Asbo banning him from his home, following noisy rows with his new wife. But he has been banned from getting involved in any more drunken rows with her.
In his defence, the 38-year-old told magistrates: "Yes we have had arguments in the house, what couple hasn't?... We have sorted our differences out and as far as I'm concerned that's the end of the matter." His solicitor told the court that it would be a "dangerous precedent" to impose an Asbo on a man for rowing with his wife - otherwise anyone in an argument which disturbs somebody else would be in danger.
There will be a full hearing in July, but in the meantime he mustn't use bad language or behave threateningly.
Over-enthusiastic use of jet-skis could be next on the Asbo agenda. North Tyneside Council is asking jetskiers to sign up to a code of conduct - speed limits near the shore, avoiding paddlers and people working on boats, that sort of thing.
If they don't, council bosses plan to use an Asbo on them. One lifeboat worker said that polite requests to be careful were not always respected. "If you try to say something, they tell you where to go," he told the Journal newspaper.
A 55-year-old Portsmouth man has been given an Asbo against parking his car in a disabled parking space. It wasn't his space, and when its 86-year-old intended user asked him to move his vehicle, he reportedly called her "village pond life".
He is reportedly the UK's first person to be specifically banned from parking in a disabled space.
BLACK SHEEP OF THE FAMILY
Wrongly accused of eating the flowers from graves in Stroud, Gloucestershire, Colin the pet black sheep was banned from the cemetery and threatened with an Asbo.
"I warned [the owner] that if the sheep was guilty then it could face possible action under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act," one local official recalled.
Fortunately things never went that far, after a pair of wild deer were spotted munching the flowers.
Not all stories have a happy ending though. Less than three months after his ordeal Colin has passed away.
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