Some sorts of behaviour can damage how an area looks and affect the lives of people who live there. If you're suffering because of anti-social behaviour, find out how the law is trying to tackle the problem.
What is anti-social behaviour?
Anti-social behaviour is the common term used to describe incidents or actions that cause damage or affect the quality of life of people in a community. These can include vandalism, graffiti, intimidation and nuisance neighbours. The police, local authorities and housing associations have recently been given new powers to tackle this problem and make neighbourhoods safer.
These powers haven't been created to stop you hanging out with your friends in public places or to control the sort of clothes you wear. They'll be used to stop abuse and intimidating behaviour and ensure that your neighbourhood is a safe place to be.
Acceptable behaviour contracts (ABCs)
If the police or a local authority have evidence that someone's behaviour is causing problems for the community, they can ask the person to sign an acceptable behaviour contract (ABC). ABCs can be given to anyone, regardless of how old they are.
An ABC is a voluntary, written agreement, meaning that it's not given out by the courts and it won'tappear on a criminal record. It lists a number of things that someone can no longer do, likespending timein certain areas with certain people.
By signing the agreement, the person agrees to stop the damaging behaviour and to follow any other requirements of the contract. They may have to attend school or college more regularly or attend counselling sessions.
The agreement is also signed by the local organisation that wants to stop the behaviour. This may be the police, a local authority or a youth offending team. If the contract involves someone under 18, their parent or carer will also sign it.
ABCs usually last for six months and the local organisation will monitor the person who signed the contract to ensure the agreement isn't broken. If someone does break their agreement, the organisation will decide what action will be taken. This could mean extending the contract, the use of an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO), or other measures depending on how the contract was broken.
Anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs)
If someone has committed a number of anti-social offences, they may be issued with an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO). Anyone over the age of10 can receive one.
ASBOs are court orders that can stop an offender going to a certain area or spending time with certain people. There are a number of organisations that can apply for one, including the police, a local authority and the British Transport Police. ASBOs have been designed to protect members of the public from anti-social behaviour instead of punishing the offender, and to prevent similar behaviour in the future.
If an ASBO is issued, it will last for at least two years. However, the order is reviewed on a regular basis. This means that if someone's behaviour shows improvement, then certain conditions of the ASBO may be removed or changed.
If you are subject to an ASBO, you will not get a criminal record unless a court finds you guilty of breaking the order.
Breaking the terms of an order
If someone breaks the terms of an anti-social behaviour order, they are committing a criminal offence. They can be arrested and the case will be heard in court. If the court finds the person guilty, the punishment will depend on the age of the person and how serious the offence was.
People who break the terms of their ASBO and are found guiltymay get a fine, a community sentence or spend time in custody.
Another way that anti-social behaviour is being tackled is by using dispersal orders. A chief police officer can put restrictions onplaces where anti-social behaviour is particularly high.
Once an area becomes a dispersal zone, the police and community safety officers have the power to order groups of people to leave after a certain time if they suspect that anti-social behaviour has happened or may happen, and can exclude people from the area for up to 24 hours.
An officer can also ask anyone under 16 to go home after 9.00 pm. Even thoughunder-16s cannot be forced to return home, refusing to leave an areais an offence.
It's unlikely you'll be affected if you're just passing through a dispersal area on your way home or if the police feel you're unlikely to cause trouble.
Reporting anti-social behaviour
- Find your local authority
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