Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

Transforming Anti-Social Behaviour: ASBOS, Injunctions and Cross-Cutting Criminal Justice Concerns

Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

Transforming Anti-Social Behaviour: ASBOS, Injunctions and Cross-Cutting Criminal Justice Concerns

Article excerpt


The Coalition took up office in 2010 with the promise to take 'radical action to reform our criminal justice system' (HM Government, 2010:13). This promise is examined here in light of recent changes to anti-social behaviour (ASB) legislation, situating these adjustments in relation to broader reformative processes being undertaken to community justice and probation through the Coalition's Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) agenda. The purpose of this paper is to question whether the changes to ASB legislation are as radical as initially suggested and to explore a number of cross-cutting criminal justice policy concerns highlighted in volume 11:2/3 of the British Journal of Community Justice entitled 'Transforming Rehabilitation--Under the Microscope'. It appears the ideological and practical concerns provoked by the TR agenda are evident, albeit to a lesser extent, in the developments to ASB legislation.

The paper begins with an appraisal of the changes to ASB legislation proposed by the Coalition in the form of the ASB, Crime and Policing Bill; specifically focusing on the reforms to Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) to create the Injunction. The passage of the Bill through Parliament is then considered, examining the tensions that arose when it reached the House of Lords and the subsequent amendments. The implications of these changes are then discussed in relation to broader criminal justice policy concerns that have been highlighted by plans to implement TR, determining the extent to which the changes in ASB legislation have been radical.

Legislative Changes

ASB legislation has remained fairly static since its inception in 1998 through the Crime and Disorder Act and the extended powers provided by the Anti-Social Behaviour Act of 2003. Reflecting different politically populist themes, New Labour's ASB agenda demonstrated evolving policy foci; for example nuisance neighbours in New Labour's first term, environmental ASB in the second and youth intervention in the third (14). The Coalition Agreement (HM Government, 2010), where the commitment to radical change was stated, sets out nineteen specific criminal justice reforms, albeit none relating to ASB. However, since 2011 the Coalition has pursued the legislative reform of ASB with the primary objective of jettisoning the ASBO. Arguably the most well-known ASB sanction, ASBOs can be sought by the relevant authorities to hand down to anyone over the age of 10 to prevent behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. They operate for a minimum period of two years with the potential to operate indefinitely. There is no restriction on the type(s) or numbers of behaviour ASBOs sanction. Breaching the terms of an ASBO constitutes a criminal offence punishable by up to five years' imprisonment for adults and a two year detention and training order for young people, or a fine of up to 5000 [pounds sterling].

With ASBOs (and ASB in general) regarded as a steadfastly New Labour creation, designing new tools and powers to sanction ASB presented an opportunity for the Coalition to markedly change a policy area that both constituent Coalition parties (the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats) fiercely criticised whilst in opposition (BBC News, 2006). The 2012 White Paper Putting Victims First--More Effective Responses to Anti-Social Behaviour outlines the Coalition's vision to streamline the existing 19 sanctions to just 6, with ASBOs being replaced by Crime Prevention Injunctions. Despite conflating the issues of crime and ASB, these Injunctions intended to offer speedy redress to those suffering ASB by being both handed down and sanctioned through civil law. The Home Office (2012a: 24) states 'our injunction will build on the success of the ASB Injunction, which social landlords use effectively to stop problems and protect victims, and which is faster and easier to use than the ASBO.' Specifically for use by social housing providers, Anti-Social Behaviour Injunctions (ASBIs) can sanction nuisance and annoyance that affects the housing management function of the landlord. …

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