A guide to ASBOs & ABCs (Nov 02)




A Guide to Anti-Social Behaviour
Orders and Acceptable Behaviour Contracts

This guidance is intended to help partnerships and anti-social
behaviour co-ordinators get the most out of recent legislation and
fully exploit its powers to reduce anti-social behaviour. It
contains guides to both ASBOs and ABCs and case studies of where the
implementation of both types of intervention has been effective. It
is hoped that the guidance will make clear recent changes in
legislation and enable local partnerships to work together
effectively in reducing anti-social behaviour. A partnership working
protocol to sit alongside this guidance is being developed by the
Home Office and is expected to be published in the spring.

Title: A Guide to Anti-social Behaviour Orders and
Acceptable Behaviour contracts
Number of pages: 86
Date published: November 2002

Anti-social behaviour has a wide legal definition � to
paraphrase the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, it is behaviour which
causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or
more people who are not in the same household as the perpetrator.
Among the forms it can take are:

  • graffiti � which can on its own make even the tidiest urban
    spaces look squalid

  • abusive and intimidating language, too often directed at

  • excessive noise, particularly late at night

  • fouling the street with litter

  • drunken behaviour in the streets, and the mess it creates

  • dealing drugs, with all the problems to which it gives rise.

All these are issues which concern everyone in the community.
They cannot be written off as generational issues � they impact on
the quality of life of young and old alike. And they require a
response which puts partnership into action.

Just as the problems of anti-social behaviour are varied, the
solution too must operate equally effectively on many levels. While
an energetic and constructive police response is essential, it must
be supplemented by engagement from a wide variety of partners. To
take only the most obvious, schools need to have effective policies
in place against truancy and bullying. Local authorities and
registered social landlords need to take responsibility for acting
against anti-social behaviour by their tenants, and against their
tenants. Social services need to ensure that they are taking the
welfare of the community fully into account when making their
decisions. And, just as important, all of these bodies need to be
sharing information with each other to the fullest possible extent
in order to act fairly and decisively against the problems of
anti-social behaviour.

ASBOs and ABCs can only work properly when they are based on
partnership in action. As this guidance makes clear, they are
powerful instruments, and they will be at their most effective when
all the agencies confronted by an individual’s anti-social behaviour
collaborate to make the best possible use of them.

Why ASBOs and ABCs?

ASBOs and ABCs are both comparatively recent developments
designed to put a stop to anti-social behaviour by the individuals
on whom they are imposed. But they work in very different ways, and
these differences will inform the judgement of professionals on
which of them may be the best option in any particular case.

The most obvious difference is that the ASBO is a statutory
creation, and carries legal force; the ABC is an informal procedure,
though not without legal significance. Both types of intervention
are aimed at stopping the problem behaviour, rather than punishing
the offender. Because the ABC is a voluntary contract, it has
greater flexibility, while the ASBO, because of its more formal
status, offers advantages in terms of enforcement.

ASBOs were introduced by Section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act
1998 and first used in 1999. Home Office research published in 2002
found that the orders had delivered real improvement in the quality
of life to communities around the country; its use of civil law
procedures and the wide powers granted to courts to impose
conditions once satisfied that an ASBO was necessary were widely
welcomed. But the research also made clear that these new procedures
had brought new problems with them, and these problems were part of
the explanation for the fact that in some parts of the country ASBOs
were being very little used by practitioners.

Once identified, the Government acted quickly to address these
difficulties. The Police Reform Act 2002 contains five important
changes, four of which are now (November 2002) being implemented.
Courts may decide that an ASBO will be valid throughout the country;
it will be possible to apply for interim ASBOs; registered social
landlords and the British Transport Police will be able to apply for
ASBOs; and it will be possible for a court to impose an order at the
same time as passing sentence for a criminal conviction. From Spring
2003 the fifth change, enabling county courts to impose orders under
certain circumstances, will also be in force.

This guidance, which supersedes the guides to ASBOs produced by
the Home Office in 1999 and 2000 2 , explains these changes and aims
to provide all the information with practitioners are likely to need
in making the most effective possible use of these orders.

Acceptable behaviour contracts are voluntary agreements made
between people involved in anti-social behaviour and the local
police, the housing department, the registered social landlord, or
the perpetrator’s school. They are flexible in terms of content and
format. Initially introduced in the London Borough of Islington to
deal with problems on estates being caused by young people aged
between 10 and 17, they are now used with adults as well as young
people, and in a wide variety of circumstances. They have proved
effective as a means of encouraging young adults, children, and
importantly, parents to take responsibility for unacceptable
behaviour. They are being used to improve the quality of life for
local people by tackling behaviour such as harassment, graffiti,
criminal damage and verbal abuse.

This guidance on ASBOs and ABCs draws on the experience of police
services, local authorities, youth offending teams, and other
organisations. It is intended for use by practitioners � people
with a professional responsibility for tackling anti-social
behaviour, whether they represent local authorities, the police,
youth offending teams, registered social landlords, prosecutors, the
judiciary, or any other agency which seeks to tackle the problem of
anti-social behaviour.

The relationship between ASBOs and ABCs

It is important that all concerned should understand that ASBOs
and ABCs are in no sense competing for business. Both are
potentially extremely powerful tools for dealing with cases of
anti-social behaviour, and it will be very much a matter for the
individual practitioner to decide which of them it might be
appropriate to go for in any particular case. It is particularly
important to dispel any impression that ASBOs should be regarded as
a last resort, only to be tried when other interventions such as
acceptable behaviour contracts have already failed.

Where an ABC is selected as the best option, it is recommended
that it should contain a statement that the continuation of
unacceptable behaviour may lead to an application for an ASBO. Where
a contract is broken, that should be used as evidence in the
application for an ASBO. It may also be possible to use the evidence
of anti-social behaviour which was originally collected for the ABC
in any subsequent ASBO application.

Examples of anti-social behaviour that can be tackled by ASBOs
and ABCs includes:

  • Harassment of residents or passers-by

  • Verbal abuse

  • Criminal damage

  • Vandalism

  • Noise nuisance

  • Writing graffiti

  • Engaging in threatening behaviour in large groups

  • Racial abuse

  • Smoking or drinking alcohol while under age

  • Substance misuse

  • Joyriding

  • Begging

  • Prostitution

  • Kerb-crawling

  • Throwing missiles

  • Assault

  • Vehicle crime.

The terms of each order or contract should be tailored to the
circumstances of the individual case.

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Guide to Anti-social Behaviour Orders and Acceptable Behaviour

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Last update:  10 September 2004

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