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Asbo also ASBO

noun [countable] British

anti-social behaviour order: a civil order aiming to protect the community from a named individual who has allegedly caused major disturbance to others through vandalism, drunkenness, etc.

'I am at a loss to understand the concern over the implementation of Asbos … Why is it wrong for someone who persistently and wilfully behaves to the distress of others to be sent to prison …?'

The Guardian 30th December 2004

'Kenny MacAskill, the SNP justice spokesman, said ASBOs were not the only answer for unruly teenagers. He said: "I can see some circumstances where ASBOs may be beneficial but the idea that they would be some sort of magic bullet is absurd. If children's behaviour is so bad, they should be sent to residential secure units.'

Scotland on Sunday 27th February 2005

April 2005 saw the launch of a new alliance called Asbo Concern. To the uninitiated, this name might conjure up the idea of a charitable cause. However, it actually represents an alliance of professional bodies, including social workers, probation officers and solicitors, who oppose the implementation of a civil order in the UK.

opponents argue that there is a lack of clear guidelines on both the definition of anti-social behaviour and the punishment the order should contain

An Asbo is a civil order made against a person who persistently behaves in a way which causes extreme stress to others, usually through drunken behaviour, abusive language, vandalism, joyriding, etc. Asbos often ban named individuals from entering a specified area, and breach of an order can result in criminal penalties – even a prison sentence.

The Asbo has remained highly controversial since its inception, mainly because it allows the possibility of jailing a person for up to five years for an offence which would not normally be considered criminal. Asbo opponents argue that there is a lack of clear guidelines on both the definition of anti-social behaviour and the punishment the order should contain, currently only determined by the nature of the offence. One of the main criticisms of the Asbo is that it criminalizes people for behaviour which is not criminal – in an extreme case, an Asbo was issued to a suicidal woman, banning her from jumping into the River Avon because of the repeated inconvenience she had caused to the emergency services.

Background – Asbo

Asbos were introduced by the British government in April 1999, as a flagship of then Home Secretary Jack Straw's law and order programme. Though initial use of the term was as a capitalized acronym: ASBO (Anti-social Behaviour Order), the use of the form Asbo quickly became popular and has more recently prevailed as the main variant, used countably and in compounds such as Asbo kid/youth/teenager, Asbo thug/yob. Asbo is another example which reflects the general tendency in acronym formation to take those 'initial letters' which make for a catchy and easily pronounced word.

Update – Basbo

In October 2005, amid growing concern about pre-teenage crime and anti-social behaviour, the UK government revealed plans to introduce a baby Asbo, also referred to as a Basbo.

Aimed at children under 10, a Basbo could, for instance, involve banning a troublesome child from entering certain areas, or engaging in specified anti-social behaviour such as the use of abusive language. A Basbo is intended to be a lighter punishment than a full Asbo.

'Mr Blair wants Basbos for children as young as five – the minimum age for criminal responsibility is 10 – to be part of his upcoming Respect Bill.

The Mirror 10th October 2005

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 24th October 2005.

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