It's a word that's always being bandied around in the papers, but where does it come from and how could you be affected?
The Anti-Social Behaviour Act
In January 2004, then Home Secretary David Blunkett's Anti-Social Behaviour Act came into force introducing a whole lot of new laws affecting young people. Here is a short summary of the laws that will affect you.
- Carrying air guns in public "without lawful authority or excuse" has been criminalized so it is now an arrestable offence;
- The age for legal possession of air weapons has been raised from 14 to 17;
- On-the-spot fines for offences such as throwing fireworks and making hoax 999 calls have been extended from adults only to 16 and 17-year-olds;
- Newspapers and local councils can name youngsters punished with anti-social behaviour orders;
- Police get the power to close crack dens in 48 hours and keep them closed, getting over a loophole that used to allow the dens to re-open with new dealers;
- Accredited private security firms have police powers to issue £30 on-the-spot fines to cyclists for riding on the pavement;
- These street wardens can also fine people found drunk and disorderly in a public place £40 if aged 16 or over, and fine anyone caught buying alcohol for someone under 18 £40 (again if aged 16 or over);
- The Act gives police the power to disperse large groups of young people who have gathered in an area designated an anti-social behaviour hotspot by a local council.
Why the controversy?
The new Act has provoked much debate in the media, the main concerns being:
- Some children's charities believe the Act will victimise innocent young people;
- Equal rights groups suggest that it will unfairly target ethnic minorities.
Asbos (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders)
The Government brought in the Asbo in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Getting one doesn't give you a criminal record, but if you breach the terms of the Asbo, it's a criminal offence.
Asbo's can be used on any person over the age of 10 and can last up to two years. You may be at risk of getting one if you do one of the following:
- Abusive and intimidating language, often directed at minorities;
- Excessive noise, particularly late at night;
- Fouling the street with litter;
- Drunken behaviour in the streets, and the mess it creates;
- Dealing drugs;
- Harassment of residents or passers-by;
- Verbal abuse;
- Criminal damage;
- Engaging in threatening behaviour in large groups;
- Racial abuse;
- Smoking or drinking alcohol while under age;
- Substance misuse;
- Throwing missiles;
- Vehicle crime.
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