Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Asbos


In the past few years in the U.K., an increasing number of people are being subjected to "Anti-Social Behavior Orders", or Asbos. These are similar in some respects to personal protection orders (PPO) or restraining orders in the U.S., but the threshold for obtaining such an order is much lower. Most notably, it seems that the largest criterion for obtaining an Asbo is that somebody be offended by the target's conduct. Although an Asbo (like a PPO) is a civil order, the violation of an ASBO can result in a custodial sentence (similar to a contempt sentence that might result from violating an PPO). But given the lower threshold for issuance, there have been some peculiar results.

A couple of days ago, The Observer described how "Children with autism and other serious psychological conditions are being targetted by the government's controversial anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos), according to mental health charities and professionals." The examples they give include:
  • "In one case in the South West, a 15-year-old boy with Asperger's syndrome, an autistic disorder, was given an Asbo which stated he was not to stare over his neighbours' fence into their garden."
  • "In one example discovered by BIBIC, an Asbo was given to a 15-year-old with Tourette syndrome, which can involve an inability to stop shouting out profanities. The order banned the teenager from swearing in public, something made impossible by the gravity of his disorder."
  • "In one case in the Midlands, the authorities applied for an Asbo against a 12-year-old girl with Asperger's who had been swearing in the street. It later emerged that she had heard her parents arguing with neighbours and had simply mimicked them."
I'm certainly no defender of public anti-social behavior, but c'mon. Whatever I may think of the neighbors who petition for Asbos under such circumstances, perhaps the larger question is what's wrong with the judges who apparently hand these things out like candy.

1 comment:

  1. "...hand these things out like candy." Or should I have said, "...hand these things out like sweets."

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