An anti-social behaviour order (ASBO ) is a civil order made in Great Britain against a person who had been shown, on the balance of evidence, to have engaged in
anti-social behaviour Antisocial behavior is a behavior that is defined as the violation of the rights of others by committing crime, such as stealing and physical attack in addition to other behaviors such as lying and manipulation. It is considered to be disrupti ...
. The orders were introduced by Prime Minister
Tony Blair Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British former politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. He previously served as Leader of the ...
in 1998, and continued in use until repealed in England and Wales by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 on 20 October 2014—although they continue to be used in Scotland. ASBOs were replaced in England and Wales by the civil
injunction An injunction is a legal and equitable remedy in the form of a special court order that compels a party to do or refrain from specific acts. ("The court of appeals ... has exclusive jurisdiction to enjoin, set aside, suspend (in whole or in pa ...
s and the criminal behaviour orders. They were designed to address behaviours like intimidation, drunkenness, and violence by individuals and families, using civil orders rather than criminal sanctions. The orders restricted behaviour in some way, such as: prohibiting a return to a certain area or shop; or restricting public behaviours, such as swearing or drinking alcohol. Many saw the ASBOs as connected with young delinquents. They are closely related to the fixed penalty notices and related schemes such as penalty notices for disorder (PNDs) and penalty charge notices (PCNs), in both intent and date of introduction.


ASBOs were introduced in England, Scotland, and Wales through the
Crime and Disorder Act 1998 The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c.37) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act was published on 2 December 1997 and received Royal Assent in July 1998. Its key areas were the introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, Sex ...
. Later legislation strengthened its application: in England and Wales, this was largely via the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003; in Northern Ireland through an
Order in Council An Order-in-Council is a type of legislation in many countries, especially the Commonwealth realms. In the United Kingdom this legislation is formally made in the name of the monarch by and with the advice and consent of the Privy Council (''Ki ...
; and in Scotland with the Antisocial and Sexual Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004.Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004: Guidance on Antisocial Behaviour Orders
, Scottish Executive. " " URLs. Retrieved 18 June 2007.
Scotland, however, had a pre-existing
tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority to judge, adjudicate on, or determine claims or disputes—whether or not it is called a tribunal in its title. For example, an advocate who appears before a court with a single ...
system charged with dealing with children and young persons who offend, the Children's Hearings system. In a press release of 28 October 2004,
Tony Blair Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British former politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. He previously served as Leader of the ...
David Blunkett David Blunkett, Baron Blunkett, (born 6 June 1947) is a British Labour Party politician who has been a Member of the House of Lords since 2015, and previously served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough ...
announced further measures to extend the use and definition of ASBOs.Press Briefing: 3.45pm Thursday 28 October 2004
", 10 Downing Street. Retrieved 18 June 2006.
The remit included: * Extension of the Witness Protection Programme in anti-social behaviour cases * More courts dealing with cases * More offences, including dog-fouling, litter, graffiti, and night-time noise liable for fixed penalty notices * Giving parish councils the power to issue fixed penalty notices for infringements The press release concluded by remarking: On 25 October 2005, Transport for London announced its intent to apply for a new law giving them the authority to issue orders against repeat fare dodgers, and increased fines.Plans for £50 fare-dodger fines
BBC News, 25 October 2005. Retrieved 18 June 2006.
By 31 March 2004, 2,455 ASBOs had been issued in England and Wales. On 30 March 2006, the Home Office announced that 7,356 ABSOs had been given out since 1999 in England and Wales.Asbo total hits 7,356
, The Register, 30 March 2006. Retrieved 18 June 2006.


The 2010 coalition government expressed its intention to replace ASBOs, citing the reasons that "breach rates are high, and the number issued has been steadily declining since 2005." In July 2010, Home Secretary
Theresa May Theresa Mary May, Lady May (; née Brasier; born 1 October 1956) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 2016 to 2019. She previously served in David Cameron's c ...
announced her intention to reform anti-social behaviour measures for England and Wales, with the abolition of ASBOs in due course in favour of alternative "community-based" social control policies. However, in 2012, Liberal Democrat objections prevented the implementation of proposals in a Home Office White Paper to replace the ASBO with a "criminal behaviour order" and a "crime prevention injunction". In May 2013, an Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill was introduced into the House of Commons, including a provision to create "injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance", replacing ASBOs in England and Wales. The bill was criticised for the broad and undefined scope of "nuisance and annoyance", and was rejected by the
House of Lords The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by appointment, heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminst ...
in January 2014. The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 received Royal Assent in March 2014. This streamlined the tools available to tackle anti-social behaviour, and replaced the ASBO with an injunction (a civil order) and a criminal behaviour order (CBO).

What warranted an ASBO


An ASBO was issued in response to "conduct which caused or was likely to cause harm, harassment, alarm, or distress, to one or more persons not of the same household as him or herself, and where an ASBO was seen as necessary to protect relevant persons from further anti-social acts by the defendant."Crime and Disorder Act 1998 s.1(1)
, Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 18 June 2006.
In England and Wales, they were issued by magistrates' courts, and in Scotland by the sheriff courts. The British government introduced ASBOs through the
Crime and Disorder Act 1998 The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c.37) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act was published on 2 December 1997 and received Royal Assent in July 1998. Its key areas were the introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, Sex ...
. In the UK, a ''CRASBO'' was a "criminally related" ASBO. One local authority published photos of those given ASBOs on an Internet site. Anti-social behaviour included a range of problems, such as:Home Affairs – Written Evidence: 19. Memorandum submitted by Napo
House of Commons, 22 March 2005. Retrieved 18 June 2006.
* abandoning cars * arson * begging * casteism * dangerous driving * defecating/ urinating in public * disturbing the peace * dogging (exhibitionistic public sex) *
drug dealing The illegal drug trade or drug trafficking is a global black market dedicated to the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of prohibited drugs. Most jurisdictions prohibit trade, except under license, of many types of drugs through ...
/consumption of controlled recreational drugs * drunken behaviour *
fare evasion Fare evasion or fare dodging, fare violation, rarely called ticket evasion, is the act of travelling on public transport without paying by deliberately not buying a required ticket to travel (having had the chance to do so). It is a problem in ma ...
intimidation Intimidation is to "make timid or make fearful"; or to induce fear. This includes intentional behaviors of forcing another person to experience general discomfort such as humiliation, embarrassment, inferiority, limited freedom, etc and the victi ...
* littering/
fly tipping Illegal dumping, also called fly dumping or fly tipping ( UK), is the dumping of waste illegally instead of using an authorized method such as curbside collection or using an authorized rubbish dump. It is the illegal deposit of any waste onto ...
/ dog fouling *
loitering Loitering is the act of remaining in a particular public place for a prolonged amount of time without any apparent purpose. While the laws regarding loitering have been challenged and changed over time, loitering is still illegal in various j ...
(with intent) * noise pollution * paedophilic activity *
racism Racism is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioral traits corresponding to inherited attributes and can be divided based on the superiority of one race over another. It may also mean prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism ...
and xenophobia * rioting * rudeness * smoking in public places *
spitting Spitting is the act of forcibly ejecting saliva or other substances from the mouth. The act is often done to get rid of unwanted or foul-tasting substances in the mouth, or to get rid of a large buildup of mucus. Spitting of small saliva dro ...
* stealing/ mugging/
shoplifting Shoplifting is the theft of goods from an open retail establishment, typically by concealing a store item on one's person, in pockets, under clothes or in a bag, and leaving the store without paying. With clothing, shoplifters may put on items ...
urban exploration Urban exploration (often shortened as UE, urbex and sometimes known as roof and tunnel hacking) is the exploration of manmade structures, usually abandoned ruins or hidden components of the manmade environment. Photography and historical inte ...
vandalism Vandalism is the action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property. The term includes property damage, such as graffiti and defacement directed towards any property without permission of the owner. The term ...
/criminal damage/
graffiti Graffiti (plural; singular ''graffiti'' or ''graffito'', the latter rarely used except in archeology) is art that is written, painted or drawn on a wall or other surface, usually without permission and within public view. Graffiti ranges from s ...

Standard of proof

Applications for ASBOs were heard by magistrates sitting in their civil capacity. Although the proceedings were civil, the court had to apply a heightened civil standard of proof. This standard was virtually indistinguishable from the criminal standard. The applicant had to satisfy the court "so that it is sure" that the defendant has acted in an anti-social manner. The test for the court to be "satisfied so that it is sure" was the same direction that a judge gives to a jury in a criminal case heard in the
Crown Court The Crown Court is the court of first instance of England and Wales responsible for hearing all indictable offences, some either way offences and appeals lied to it by the magistrates' courts. It is one of three Senior Courts of England and W ...
, and is also known as satisfying the court "beyond
reasonable doubt Beyond a reasonable doubt is a legal standard of proof required to validate a criminal conviction in most adversarial legal systems. It is a higher standard of proof than the balance of probabilities standard commonly used in civil cases, be ...
". Pursuant to section 1(1) Civil Evidence Act 1995, an applicant (and a defendant) had the right to rely on witness statements without calling the makers of those statements—known as
hearsay Hearsay evidence, in a legal forum, is testimony from an under-oath witness who is reciting an out-of-court statement, the content of which is being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. In most courts, hearsay evidence is inadmis ...
. If a party proposed to rely upon a hearsay statement, then the other party was entitled to ask the court for permission to call that witness for
cross-examination In law, cross-examination is the interrogation of a witness called by one's opponent. It is preceded by direct examination (in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, South Africa, India and Pakistan known as examination-in-chief) an ...
. If the court refused to grant such an application, then the defendant would be unable to cross examine the makers of the hearsay statements. Nevertheless, it was open to them, in accordance with the Civil Evidence Act, to submit that the court should place little or no weightCivil Evidence Act 1995 s 4(1) upon material that had not been tested by way of cross examination. Section 4(1) Civil Evidence Act 1995 states that: The High Court has emphasised that the use of the words "if any" shows that some hearsay evidence may be given no weight at all. For an ASBO to be made, the applicant had to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the respondent had behaved in an anti-social manner. The applicant could rely on hearsay evidence. However, the Court of Appeal has stated that it does not expect a court to find that the criminal standard has been reached by relying solely on hearsay evidence. The Civil Evidence Act 1995 itself makes clear that courts should consider what weight, if any at all, attaches to hearsay material. In ''Cleary'', the Court of Appeal again restated that courts should consider attaching no weight at all to such material, in accordance with the words of the statute. It is for the court to decide what weight to give the hearsay evidence. The
Court of Appeal A court of appeals, also called a court of appeal, appellate court, appeal court, court of second instance or second instance court, is any court of law that is empowered to hear an appeal of a trial court or other lower tribunal. In much o ...
has stated that the high standard of proof is difficult to meet if the entirety of the case, or the majority of it, is based upon hearsay evidence. The proper approach would be for a court to consider to what extent the hearsay evidence is, amongst other things, supported by other evidence, the cogency and similarity of supporting instances of hearsay evidence, and the cogency and reliability of contradictory evidence supplied by a defendant. Where, for example, ten anonymous witnesses who are unrelated to each other each provide a witness statement as to the defendant's anti-social behaviour, where each statement refers independently to the same particular events, and where this is supported by a witness statement from a non-anonymous witness, such as a housing officer who confirms that residents have made complaints about a particular person over a period of time, then the court may be justified in according to the statements a fair degree of weight.

Typical ASBOs

An ABSO was an order of the court which told an individual aged over 10 years how they must not behave. An order could contain only negative prohibitions. It could not contain a positive obligation. To obtain an ASBO, a two-stage test had to be satisfied by the applicant authority (see: s.1(1) Crime and Disorder Act 1998). The first test was that the defendant had committed acts causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm, or distress within six months of the date of issue of the summons. The second test was that an order was necessary to protect persons from further anti-social behaviour. The applicant had to satisfy the court that the individual had acted in an anti-social manner—that is to say, in a manner that caused, or was likely to cause, harassment, alarm, or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as themself. A court could order an ASBO only if such an order was "necessary". Further, each prohibited act would usually be an act preparatory to a criminal offence, rather than the offence itself—but not always (see: ''Rabess v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis'' 007EWHC 208 (Admin)). In addition, each prohibition itself had to be necessary. An order had to be tailor-made for the individual defendant. The ASBO represented "a form of personalised criminal law." It had to be relevant to their particular anti-social behaviour. Orders should not have been drafted too widely or imprecisely. Each prohibition had to be necessary. An ASBO was very similar to a civil injunction, even though the differences are important. First: the injunction was supposed to protect the world at large, in a given geographical area, rather than an individual. Second: breach of an ASBO was a criminal offence to be tried in a criminal court, applying the criminal standard of beyond all reasonable doubt. A power of committal to prison was available for breach of a civil injunction, but a court was unlikely to exercise that power. A person subject to an anti-social behaviour order where it did not follow a criminal conviction had an automatic right of appeal against both the making of the order and its terms to a higher court. There was also the availability of an appeal to the High Court by way of "case stated". There was no appeal against the variation of orders, and variation was used to add extra conditions, and to extend the duration of ASBOs. An application for an ASBO was considered by the courts in its civil jurisdiction, and was a civil order. However, breach of an ASBO was a criminal offence, and conviction could result in up to five years' imprisonment (two for a minor). Subsequent legislation compelled magistrates to make a Parenting Order, where a person under the age of 16 breached their ASBO. Other examples: * Abusive behaviourASBO for abusive Rochester Square resident
, Camden Council, 13 January 2005
* Begging"Cases of ASBOs used for general public order issues"
Statewatch's ASBOWatch
* Flyposting"Top music chiefs are spared ASBOs"
''BBC News'', 14 June 2004
Harassment Harassment covers a wide range of behaviors of offensive nature. It is commonly understood as behavior that demeans, humiliates or embarrasses a person, and it is characteristically identified by its unlikelihood in terms of social and moral r ...
* Organising illegal
rave A rave (from the verb: '' to rave'') is a dance party at a warehouse, club, or other public or private venue, typically featuring performances by DJs playing electronic dance music. The style is most associated with the early 1990s dance mus ...
s"Man banned from organising raves"
BBC News, 14 June 2006
Suicide attempt A suicide attempt is an attempt to die by suicide that results in survival. It may be referred to as a "failed" or "unsuccessful" suicide attempt, though these terms are discouraged by mental health professionals for implying that a suicide res ...
s"Arrest of Asbo 'suicide' woman"
BBC News, 27 February 2006
* Theft"Asbo for youth who terrorised neighbours"
Rochdale Observer, 16 March 2007, Helen Johnson
Vandalism Vandalism is the action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property. The term includes property damage, such as graffiti and defacement directed towards any property without permission of the owner. The term ...
" TfL wins first Asbo against graffiti vandal" Wikinews, 25 September 2007"How ASBOs have worked"
CrimeReduction.gov.uk, 6 September 2006

Less common ASBOs

Less common and more conventional uses of ASBOs, as listed by a report to the Home Office to illustrate the difficulties with ASBOs, include: * Two teenage boys from east
Manchester Manchester () is a city in Greater Manchester, England. It had a population of 552,000 in 2021. It is bordered by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and the neighbouring city of Salford to the west. The tw ...
forbidden to wear one golf glove, as it was a symbol of membership of a particular gang. * A 13-year-old forbidden to use the word "
grass Poaceae () or Gramineae () is a large and nearly ubiquitous family of monocotyledonous flowering plants commonly known as grasses. It includes the cereal grasses, bamboos and the grasses of natural grassland and species cultivated in lawns an ...
" as a term of abuse in order to threaten people. * A 15-year-old forbidden to play
football Football is a family of team sports that involve, to varying degrees, kicking a ball to score a goal. Unqualified, the word ''football'' normally means the form of football that is the most popular where the word is used. Sports commonly ca ...
in his street. * A farmer (the first to be given an ASBO) who was instructed to keep his
geese A goose ( : geese) is a bird of any of several waterfowl species in the family Anatidae. This group comprises the genera '' Anser'' (the grey geese and white geese) and '' Branta'' (the black geese). Some other birds, mostly related to the she ...
and pigs from damaging his neighbour's property. * An 18-year-old ordered not to congregate with three or more other youths. He entered a local youth club that had a good reputation, and was arrested because there were more than three youths on the premises. He was intending to attend an event there on how to deal with anti-social behaviour.


From their inception, ASBOs were controversial. They were criticised as being "without strong and principled justification", a distraction from the failure of the government's law and order policies, a "recipe for institutionalised vigilantism", and an "emblem of punitive populism". Andrew Rutherford commented that the "ASBO provides a particularly striking example of the criminalisation of social policy". A
MORI Mori is a Japanese and Italian surname, and also a Persian pet name for Morteza. It is also the name of two clans in Japan, and one clan in India. Italian surname * Barbara Mori, Uruguayan-Mexican actress * Camilo Mori, Chilean painter * Ce ...
opinion poll published on 9 June 2005 found that 82% of the British public were in favour of ASBOs; however, only 39% believed they were effective in their current form.Public Concern About ASB And Support For ASBOs
, MORI, 10 June 2005. Retrieved 18 June 2006.
A 2012 survey by Angus Reid Public Opinion showed that only 8% of Britons believed ASBOs had been successful in curbing anti-social behaviour in the UK."Britons Remain Unconvinced By Anti-Social Behaviour Orders"
Angus Reid Public Opinion, 22 February 2012. Retrieved 31 July 2017 (archived link).
Other parties voiced concerns about the open-ended nature of ASBO penalties—that is, there was little restriction on what a court was able to impose as the terms of the ASBO, and little restriction on what could be designated as antisocial behaviour. In 2005, critics reported that only around 3% of ASBO applications had been turned down.
''The Guardian'', 5 April 2005
In July 2007, the Local Government Ombudsman published a report criticising
Manchester City Council Manchester City Council is the local authority for Manchester, a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. Manchester is the sixth largest city in England by population. Its city council is composed of 96 councillors, three ...
for serving an ASBO based purely on uncorroborated reports of nuisance by a neighbour, and the Council agreed to pay £2000 in compensation.False' Asbo woman wins payout"
''BBC News'', 5 July 2007
A 2005 memorandum submitted by the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) asserted that "there is ample evidence of the issuing of ASBOs by the courts being inconsistent and almost a geographical lottery. There is great concern that people are being jailed following the breach of an ASBO, where the original offence was itself non-imprisonable. There is also evidence that ASBOs have been used where people have
mental health Mental health encompasses emotional, psychological, and social well-being, influencing cognition, perception, and behavior. It likewise determines how an individual handles stress, interpersonal relationships, and decision-making. Mental heal ...
problems where treatment would be more appropriate. In NAPO's view, the time is right for a fundamental review of the use and appropriateness of Anti-social Behaviour Orders by the Home Office." In 2002, Home Office data stated that in the cases where information was available, there was a high proportion where some mitigating factor appeared to have contributed to their behaviour. Almost used substances, and were consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. Overall, 44% were engaging in substance use or had a
learning disability Learning disability, learning disorder, or learning difficulty (British English) is a condition in the brain that causes difficulties comprehending or processing information and can be caused by several different factors. Given the "difficult ...
, and a further 16% included persons with psychological and behaviour problems in the family. Similar results were found in Scotland. A casefile review showed that 55% of those given ASBOs had substance use disorders, mental health, or learning disability problems (see: ''The Use of ASBOs in Scotland'', H. Pawson, School of The Built Environment, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 2007). In 2005, a survey of Youth Offending Teams by the British Institute for Brain Injured Children showed that 38% of ASBOs went to young people with significant mental disorders. Problems included: clinical depression, suicidal tendencies, autism, psychosis, personality disorders, learning disabilities, and ADHD; this raised the question of whether young people with these illnesses should be held to a lower standard of behaviour than others. By contrast, the same survey of ASBO teams gave only a 5% reported incidence of mental impairment. This massive difference suggests that most ASBO teams did not take into account mental health problems, even though the Home Office safeguards for vulnerable people in the ASBO process required it. ASBO effectiveness was also questioned. In response to a House of Commons question, it was stated that 53.7% of ASBOs were breached in England in 2005; 69.4% in 2006; and 70.3% in 2007. In large cities, rates could be higher: the breach rate in Manchester reached 90.2% in 2007. This level of breaching raised an interesting issue. The first test to justify the issuing of an ASBO was that anti-social behaviour (ASB) had been proved to the criminal standard. The second test was that the order was necessary to prevent future acts of ASB, and provide protection to the victim(s). However, the criminal standard was not applied to the second test. Indeed, Lord Steyn stated: According to government evaluations (e.g. ''Housing Research Summary No. 230''; DfCLG) in the "ASB Intensive Family Support" ( Sin Bin) projects introduced to supplement ASBOs, 80% of the families targeted had serious mental/physical health and learning disability problems; one in five families had children affected with
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by excessive amounts of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that are pervasive, impairing in multiple contexts, and otherwise age-inappr ...
, and 60% of the families were recognised as victims of ASB. Project managers described many families as "easily scapegoated" in neighbour disputes. HRS 230 called for a review of both ASBO policy and investigation procedures in order to make the whole process fairer. A later study of 53 projects by the National Centre For Social Research noted that 42% of children with mental health problems were reported to have ADHD or hyperactivity, and 29% were reported with depression or stress. Amongst adults, 69% had depression. A later comprehensive review of Family Intervention Projects over a decade found little objective evidence for significant, sustained reduction in ASB in the families, and concluded that underlying mental health and disability problems remained largely unaddressed. In the UK, there was criticism that an ASBO was sometimes viewed as a badge of honour by the youth. Nacro, the biggest criminal justice-related charity in England and Wales, published two reports: the first claimed that ASBOs were a failure, due to being costly and slow to obtain; and the second criticised their use by the courts, with assertions that they were being used too hastily, before alternatives had been tried.

See also


Further reading

* *{{Citation, last=Sikand, first=Maya, title=ASBOs: A Practitioner's Guide to Defending Anti-social Behaviour Orders, location=London, publisher=Legal Action Group, year=2006, isbn=978-1-903307-41-0, ref=none
Crime and Disorder Act 1998 The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c.37) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act was published on 2 December 1997 and received Royal Assent in July 1998. Its key areas were the introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, Sex ...
(introduced ASBOs), Office of Public Sector Information
Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, Office of Public Sector Information Law of the United Kingdom Anti-social behaviour Court orders