Asbo replacement orders announced by government

Teenager jumping over barrier
Image caption Some say Asbos have not worked and are treated like a badge of honour among offenders

The government has announced plans to tackle anti-social behaviour, including the creation of new behaviour orders.

Its proposals include the abolition of Anti-social Behaviour Orders (Asbos).

The new Criminal Behaviour Order can be attached to a criminal conviction, and a Crime Prevention Injunction is aimed at stopping anti-social behaviour before it escalates.

Labour said that while Asbos may not have been perfect, they were working well.

The plans are part of a government consultation on anti-social behaviour.

The coalition also wants to compel police to investigate incidents that are reported by at least five people - known as the "community trigger".

Other plans would allow police to force culprits to make immediate amends.

The Under-Secretary of State for Crime Prevention, James Brokenshire, called the changes to the government's response to anti-social behaviour "a radical streamlining".

He added: "Instead of providing a specific tool to deal with every problem, we aim to introduce a handful of faster, more flexible and more effective tools that allow practitioners to protect victims and communities and get to the root of the problem."

He described the new measures as "an effective toolkit to deal with anti-social behaviour - one that is quick, practical, easy to use and provides a real deterrent to perpetrators".

They include:

  • Community triggers - where local agencies will be compelled to take action if five people from five different residences in the same neighbourhood have complained and no action has been taken, or the behaviour in question has been reported to the authorities by an individual three times, and no action has been taken
  • Criminal Behaviour Orders - issued by the courts after conviction, the order would ban an individual from certain activities or places and require them to address their behaviour. A breach would incur a maximum five-year prison term
  • Crime Prevention Injunctions - designed to nip bad behaviour in the bud before it escalates. The injunction would carry a civil burden of proof, making it quicker and easier to obtain than previous tools. For adults, breach of the injunction could mean they are imprisoned or fined. For under-18s a breach could be dealt with through curfews, supervision or detention
  • Community Protection Orders - these are place-specific orders, bringing together a number of existing measures. There will be one for local authorities to stop persistent environmental anti-social behaviour like graffiti, neighbour noise or dog fouling, and another for police and local authorities to deal with more serious disorder and criminality in a specific place, such as closing a property used for drug dealing
  • Police "direction" powers - the ability to direct any individual causing or likely to cause crime or disorder away from a particular place and to confiscate related items

Mr Brokenshire also said: "Our aim is to ensure that where a community or victim is suffering anti-social behaviour - particularly the sort of targeted, persistent harassment apparent in a number of high profile recent cases - the police and other local agencies take the problem seriously, take the necessary steps to stop it permanently, and protect vulnerable victims."

The public consultation on the new proposals runs until 3 May.

Labour has said that any of the coalition's announcements on the issue will be damaged by their simultaneous cuts to policing numbers. Labour says more than 10,000 police officer posts will be gone by the end of next year, although ministers dispute those figures.

A key part of the plan is to overhaul Asbos, which were introduced in England and Wales under Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1999.

They were aimed at banning an individual from engaging in specific kinds of behaviour or going to certain places.

'Supporting role'

Breaching an Asbo could result in a criminal punishment of up to five years in prison, but the measure was criticised by some for being ineffective and seen as a badge of honour among offenders.

Under new criminal behaviour orders police will be able to apply for a court order to tackle low-level nuisance behaviour.

A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed that troublemakers could face the same asset seizure powers, potentially to be employed on other criminals, under the new orders. They could have personal items, such as music systems, confiscated.

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Edens, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "We have been clear that we will support a simplification of the tools and powers available to front line practitioners, making it easier for them to do what works best.

"We also recognise that anti-social behaviour cannot be solved by public services alone. Police and partners have a role in supporting communities to develop their own capabilities, including enhancing the public's ability to appropriately intervene, without putting themselves at risk."

'Savage cuts'

Louise Casey, commissioner for victims and witnesses, said: "I am pleased that the message being sent out from government is that there is no excuse for police and councils to stand by and allow their communities to suffer from lawless, mindless thuggery that makes people's lives unbearable."

Shadow Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said Asbos had problems, but overall were a positive influence on crime levels.

"Of course there were problems, and there have been some terrible examples of where things have gone wrong.

"But overall, crime fell dramatically, anti-social behaviour became less of a problem and confidence with respect to the police increased. So there was very real progress made."

He also said the main factor that had made a difference to anti-social behaviour over the past 10 years had been neighbourhood police teams on the streets and working with local communities.

"What we have learnt is that no matter what measures you introduce, you need the officers to enforce them."

He added that current plans for "savage cuts" to policing numbers would damage that work.

"No matter what announcements this Tory-led government makes, the truth is they are taking an unacceptable risk with the safety of our streets," he said.

BBC News website readers have been sharing their thoughts on the issue:

Asbos have been around for a long time and as stated in this article have attracted a status. Having worked in the criminal justice system for many years, we have seen very little impact from the Asbo, many of the orders have resulted in custody which for young and old is not where people will learn to be a part of their local community for the benefit of it. Hopefully this move will direct people to take responsibly for their actions at the time of the negative behaviour. But, ultimately, anti-social behaviour needs to be addressed by us all. Until the community does something, this will carry on. We need to stop thinking this is the job of the police, and realise this is all of our jobs. I want to live in a safe place, if you do, then it's up to you to offer what you can. Justin, Bristol

What was the point of the Asbo? I got a fine for retaliating when the offender was told off. I was 58, with a clean record. The offender was well known to police. The only way the youngsters and their parents will suffer is if you hit them where it hurts. In their pockets. A stiff fine for the first offence - the more trouble they cause, the more they pay. As for five people having to complain, this is a joke. Of myself and four other neighbours, four of us are over 60, two of them are over 80. They will be afraid to complain. Glenys McMaahon, Truro, Cornwall

Asbos have always been a costly and useless exercise. Our council is Wirral, across the water from Liverpool. We have lots of so-called anti-social behaviour on both sides of the river. Such behaviour by youth simply demonstrates the breakdown in families, where parents have inadequate skill or desire to parent. Too many single families and excessive alcohol usage by parents, which is copied by kids. It is a natural consequence of the family problems that the youth then act out and cause problems in their streets. I have worked directly with young offenders and pre-delinquent youth both here and in Canada. I also still work with 16-year-olds at a high school in a deprived area of Birkenhead. We must look at what what the cause of the behaviours is. Not slap Asbo sticking plasters on the situation. Patricia van der Veer, Walllasey, Merseyside

As a civilian involved in investigating anti-social behaviour I am worried about the proposal to scrap Asbos. These orders were put in place to deal with behaviour that was anti-social but not always criminal - but were hijacked to deal with purely criminal acts. The new orders will not deal with anti-social behaviour as police will not have the time to deal with these incidents and will not take statements from people who wish to remain anonymous. Also five or six people complain what does that mean? I dream of cases where I have five or six people complaining and willing to make statements. Aily, Leeds, Yorkshire

Abolishing Asbos is gross stupidity - sure, they did not work in 50% of cases, but the current formalised justice system is far from perfect and may show a similar rate of effectiveness. Are we therefore going to abolish custodial sentences? All this demonstrates is Theresa May's inclination to get rid of all vestiges of the previous government without proper thought. I suspect it will be a complete disaster, compounded by the cuts in the numbers of police. Assertions that "service will not be affected" is all very well from a cosy Whitehall office, but in the cold light of day it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding. I am reminded of the Tory's "Section 28" which was practically unenforceable and under which no actions were ever brought - a complete waste of time and money just to pander to prejudices. Andrew, Birkenhead

I don't think the Asbo should be abolished altogether, but used as the final stage of a sliding scale of punishment. I have been a victim of anti-social behaviour and while to some an Asbo is a badge of honour, to others it can prevent them from further criminal activity or engaging with those who are career criminals. Young people should be given a chance to prove to victims, police and local community that they are remorseful and made aware of how their behaviour affects all concerned. If no improvement in behaviour is shown, then an Asbo should be issued and the person made known to the community he lives in. Michelle Thornton, Torfaen

I am worried about this. I was victim of anti-social behaviour. For six years police didn't help. Although it affected most neighbours, only one reported him. With police plus local authority cuts this will be worse. Why? Moira, Coventry

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