In the Media

Antisocial villains no longer face criminal record under watered-down ASBOs

PUBLISHED December 13, 2011

Vandals, drunks and bullies will no longer face getting a criminal record if they breach a magistrate?s order issued under antisocial legislation to be introduced by the Government.

Theresa May has been accused of watering down community protection measures in her plans to overhaul the ?ASBO? regime.

The Home Office is set to replace antisocial behaviour orders, introduced in 1998, with a power known as the crime prevention injunction.

However, Gloria De Piero, the Labour MP, is warning that breaches of a crime prevention injunction (CPI) would not result in a criminal record, whereas a breach of an ASBO would.

A consultation paper by the Home Office revealed that while a breach of one of the new CPI orders could result in a fine and six months in prison, this would be treated as a civil rather than a criminal sanction and would not lead to a criminal record.

This contrasts with the current position on ASBOs, a breach of which is a criminal offence under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, and capable of being disclosed as part of a criminal records check. The maximum sentence for breach of an ASBO by a juvenile is a two-year detention and training order, only one year of which can be served in prison.

The department cites a number of examples where the new CPI order could be applicable. These include banning perpetrators who regularly cause antisocial behaviour in a certain area from returning and requiring them to undergo an anger management course. Alternatively, if owners of aggressive dogs failed to control them, they could be banned from certain areas or forced to keep their pets on a lead or muzzle.

Ms De Piero told The Times: ?It has to be right to have proper punishment for a breach of an order. That should be a criminal record. The Government should ditch their plans to scrap ASBOs. Their proposed replacements are weaker and throw a tried and tested system into chaos.?

A more powerful punishment is also being introduced by the Government, known as a criminal behaviour order, but this would be available only on conviction, which could restrict the options of law enforcement authorities.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: ?When the ASBO was introduced in 1998, it was intended to be a civil order but its use has declined since 2005 as many practitioners chose not to use it, among other reasons, because they found the cost and associated casework for applicant authorities too cumbersome.

?Our aim with the crime prevention injunction is to create a purely civil court order (ie, with sanctions under the civil, rather than criminal, law) that agencies can secure quickly to stop an individual?s antisocial behaviour and protect victims and communities. It could include both prohibitions on behaviour and positive requirements to address underlying issues.?

? The law that sets 10 as the age of criminal responsibility is not based on the latest scientific knowledge about the brain, an inquiry by the Royal Society has found (Mark Henderson writes). TheNeuroscience and the Law report found evidence that the brain is not fully developed until about 20.?Neuroscience confirms that adolescents are not wholly responsible individuals and are inclined to take risks and behave in irresponsible ways,? said Nicholas Mackintosh, Emeritus Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge, who chaired the inquiry. It would suggest that criminals such as Jon Venables and Robert Thomson, who were 10 when they killed James Bulger, ought not to have been tried in adult courts.