Criticisms of ASBOs have been made from various quarters. Seen as one of the cornerstones of Tony Blair's 'Respect Agenda', it is no wonder that the Coalition government is now seeking to replace them. Complaints that they have become a 'badge of honour', that they are frequently breached, or that they criminalise young people, have all had some validity, but whether this warrants their abolition is a matter for judgement and personal opinion. Or perhaps political opinion. The government has now announced its proposals for replacing the ASBO, and at first glance, there is not too much difference. The new Criminal Behaviour Order will be issued by a court after conviction and would ban individuals from certain places and activities. Crime prevention injunctions could lead to imprisonment or a fine for adults, and curfews and detention for under 18s.
There are clearly different views on this issue, one being that as the numbers of police officers is predicted to decline in coming years, social landlords will be forced into playing a more direct role in controlling the anti-social and criminal behaviour of some of their tenants. How will this impact on the activities of front-line housing officers, who also may have to adopt a softer and more supportive role, due to the cuts in Supporting People budgets. Time will tell no doubt.
Another view is that there are already enough legal (and non-legal) tools available to social landlords to deal with anti-social behaviour, such as possession, demotion, injunctions, ASBOs, CRASBOs, closure orders, parenting orders, dispersal orders...I could go on. Some have argued that it is not the lack of tools that is the problem, but the skills and knowledge to be able to use them, and to use the appropriate tool in the right situation.
Anyway, the proposals are out for consultation and no doubt we will see some changes. Let's hope that there will be a positive and coordinated approach to dealing with a problem which blights many people's lives in many parts of the country and across different tenures.
The full consultation document can be found at: