13 April, 2006

In court

Today I went to court to follow up a story I'd heard about through a friend. It involved a homeless man and the breach of an asbo issued on behalf of Westminster council. he pleaded not guilty and was remanded on bail for three weeks. So I did not get the story I wanted but firstly I thought to look at what asbo's really are, asbo stands for Anti-social behavior orders, were introduced in the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act and came into force in 1999. Asbos ban people from specific activities or from entering particular areas. They last a minimum of two years, but can be imposed for longer. The 2002 Police Reform Act and the 2003 Anti-Social behavior Act 2003 also contained measures on asbos. Asbos can be served against children over 10 years of age or against adults if they have behaved in an anti-social manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress, and that the order is necessary to protect persons from further anti-social acts. This has allowed asbos to be used to ban activity that is not in itself criminal, such as begging, prostitution and even playing football or being sarcastic. Most asbos are imposed after an application by a local authority or the police. Asbos are made by magistrates' courts after civil proceedings and may be made on the basis of hearsay evidence. Breaching an asbo is a criminal offence, carrying a penalty of up to five years' imprisonment, even when the original offence was not an imprisonable one. Around half of all asbos have been served on children and young people, who can be given detention training orders lasting up to two years. What was worrying to me and maybe so many people was the fact that an asbo can be issued on hearsay only. Which gives ground for it to be abused. The question that I am asking are asbos being used in the way they were meant? I'm hoping to site several cases brought before courts around the country in the coming weeks in the hope of shedding new light on the subject.

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