Court calls a halt to ill-defined Asbos

Antisocial behaviour orders should “never again” be drafted in a vague, all-encompassing way, the High Court has ruled.

Lord Justice Richards, sitting with Mr Justice David Clarke, said the terms of an order prohibiting a 13-year-old boy from acting in “an antisocial manner in the City of Manchester” might have been incomprehensible to him.

The order was drafted by Manchester Council, which has been the most enthusiastic proponent of the Asbo in the UK, issuing 391 from 1999 to 2005.

The two judges endorsed similar criticisms about the order made by a district court judge last year.

But they upheld a Crown Prosecution Service appeal against the district court, which had decided the order was invalid, saying it was not in the district judge’s jurisdiction.

Richards said: “In our judgement such a wide provision as ‘not to act in an antisocial manner’, without further definition or limitations should never again be included in an Asbo.”

Manchester Council’s director of housing, Steve Rumbelow, said that, since the original district court ruling, it had changed the standard clause on its Asbos to prohibit anti-social behaviour “that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress”.

He added: “We do not expect any repercussions on existing Asbos as a result of the appeal court ruling.”


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