How Effective Are Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos) in Punishing Criminal Behaviour and in Deterring Criminality and Re-Offending?

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  • Topic: Crime, Anti-Social Behaviour Order, Crime and Disorder Act 1998
  • Pages : 8 (2511 words )
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  • Published : November 12, 2008
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“How effective are anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) in punishing criminal behaviour and in deterring criminality and re-offending?”

In this essay I shall focus upon the issue of anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs). Since ASBOs were introduced an increasing debate has been taking place over how effective ASBOs actually are at punishing and deterring criminal behaviour. I aim to examine whether or not ASBOs have been successful in punishing and deterring criminal behaviour, the ways in which they punish and deter this behaviour and the perception of ASBOs within British society.

Before we consider the above issues we should first explore what anti-social behaviour is and what ASBOs are. We must also identify the possible reasons behind the Labour government’s introduction of ASBOs. ASBOs were introduced under section one of the government’s Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and came into force on 1 April 1999. The Act defines anti-social behaviour as acting “in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household”. ASBOs are court orders which are designed to prevent these negative activities and prohibit specific anti-social behaviours . There are many different kinds of anti-social behaviours which cover a wide range of activities, including vandalism, begging and abandoning cars. The Home Office website(a) describes the ways in which asbo’s aim to prevent and control these anti-social behaviours, “An ASBO can ban an offender from: continuing the offending behaviour, spending time with a particular group of friends or visiting certain areas”. One of the reasons behind the introduction of ASBOs could be Wilson and Kelling’s ‘broken window’ theory (1982). Crawford argues that “the ‘broken window’ thesis has passed into established ‘orthodoxy’ within British government policy” (2007:886). The theory suggests that if minor offences, such as begging, are uncontrolled they could turn neighbourhoods into high crime areas, which will increase fear within society. ASBOs can be issued to any individual over the age of ten, which is the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales, and are issued for a minimum of two years. Since their introduction ASBOs have been modified under many Acts of Parliament, including the Police Reform Act 2002 and the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003. These acts have strengthened the ASBO and have given the police and local authorities more power to tackle anti-social behaviour in their area.

We can now move on to consider how effective ASBOs are in punishing criminal behaviour. ASBOs are a civil order, not a criminal penalty, meaning that they do not appear on the perpetrator’s criminal record. The Home Office website(b) states that “The aim of an ASBO is to protect the public from the behaviour, rather than to punish the perpetrator”. This clearly shows that the government intended ASBOs to be a protection to the public by prohibiting the offenders from continuing with the anti-social behaviour or from entering specific areas, rather than an attempt to punish the individuals who carry out the anti-social behaviour. Therefore, ASBOs could be seen as effective as they do stop the anti-social behaviour and refrain people from behaving in an anti-social way again. If an individual breaches their ASBO then they could incur a further, more severe punishment. It is a criminal offence to breach an ASBO and could result in a fine or up to a maximum of five...
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