In January 2004 the Anti-Social Behaviour Act was passed which introduced new laws affecting young people.
Anti-social behaviour is a term used to describe incidents or actions that cause damage to an area or affect the quality of life of individuals. The new ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) laws give the police, local authorities and housing association more powers to make the society in which we live safer.
Anti-social behaviour includes vandalism, graffiti, intimidation and nuisance neighbours. If you cause any damage to properties or individuals, the police, local authorities and housing associations have new powers to tackle the problems.
If the police or a local authority has evidence that you or a friend’s behaviour is causing problems for the community, they can ask you to sign an acceptable behaviour contract (ABC). ABCs can be given to anyone no matter how old they are.
Acceptable Behaviour Contract
An ABC is a voluntary written agreement, it is not a criminal record but it does list a number of things that you can no longer do, like hanging out in certain areas with certain people.
By signing the agreement, you agree to stop the damaging behaviour and follow any other requirements of the contract. You 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, the parent or carer will also have to sign it.
ABCs usually last for six months and you will be monitored by the local organisation that also signed the contract to ensure the agreement isn’t broken. If you break the 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.
Another way that anti-social behaviour is being tackled is by using dispersal orders.
A chief police officer can put restrictions on certain areas that have been identified as areas 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 you and your friends to leave an area after a certain time. They can do this 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 9pm but cannot force them to do so, but a refusal is an offence. However, 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.
Who can help?
If you are concerned about anti-social behaviour in your area generally, or if you’ve got a specific problem, you can contact your local authority and ask to speak to the anti-social behaviour co-ordinator, or call your local police.
Visit the Direct Gov website for more information on ASBOs www.direct.gov.uk/en/YoungPeople/CrimeAndJustice/TypesOfCrime/DG_10027673.