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Abolish Anti-Social Behaviour Orders

Comment 18th July 2010

The whole concept of ASBOs is flawed an unjust.

It allows a person to be hauled in front of a magistrate/judge and for that member of the judiciary to place restrictions on what that person can and cannot do, that do not apply to other members of the public, with the threat of imprisonment for breaching these restrictions.

This is in effect allowing the judiciary to make legislation that applies to individual people, whereas I believe the law should apply equally to all, and allows people to be imprisoned for actions that are not criminal.

The person does not even have to be convicted of a criminal offence before the judge can place these restrictions on a person's freedom and the ASBO process is a civil, not criminal, process, and I do not believe it is appropriate for the state to use the civil process to circumvent the protections afforded us by the procedures, rules and standard of proof developed over many years to protect us from arbitrary interference with our freedom by the state.

I recognise that so-called "anti-social behaviour" is a problem, and I say so-called because most, if not all, of the so-called behaviours are actually serious criminal offences, such as harassment, vandalism, threats of violence, etc and as such should be prosecuted and punished accordingly in the criminal courts, not classed as "anti-social behaviour" to keep the government crime statistics down.

 I believe this does a disservice and insults victims of these crimes as well and I believe they should be treated as crimes by the police. Most of this behaviour is a course of conduct against one person or in a certain area and it should be trivial for the police to install hidden cameras for a limited period to gather evidence of these crimes and prosecute the offenders.

There also should be harsher punishment for criminals who repeatedly commit these crimes and they should not be punished as isolated instances of vandalism or harassment each time, but the person's history of criminal behaviour looked at when sentencing, similar to the US' "three-strikes" rule.

Why does this matter?

Because ASBO's allow the Government to circumvent the protections afforded by the criminal justice system and give too much power to judges to make imprisonable offences that only apply to individual people.

ASBO's also allow criminals to avoid proper punishment for their crimes and have been shown to fail the victims by not being considered until many crimes have been committed and gone unpunished, only then to allow the criminal back onto the streets in many cases to continue to offend and make people's lives a misery.

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