Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Look out, there's an ASBO about

It looks as if we can expect an increase in the number of ASBOs issued for ridiculous reasons:
The Home Office is planning to give local authorities targets for the number of antisocial behaviour orders (ASBOs) and acceptable behaviour contracts they should issue, as part of plans to reduce regional variations in their use. From September antisocial behaviour and respect indicators will be tied in with local area agreements, which determine local authority funding.
In other words, 'if you want your money next year...' So much for leaving it to 'local communities' to sort their problems out.

Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (ABCs) are a particularly obnoxious device, and ripe for a legal challenge. They can be issued to anyone under 18, or to parents of under-10s, and contain the same type of list of proscribed behaviour as an ASBO.

The difference is that ASBO applications are heard by magistrates, whereas ABC hearings are conducted by the same local authority that wants to issue them. 'Evidence' is gathered by professional witnesses who go around collecting stories from neighbours. Although ABCs are described as 'voluntary' agreements, the sanctions for breaching them can include eviction - a rather elastic definition of voluntary seems to be in use.


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