2006-07-18

Asbo - a threat against british democracy

Ryan Wilkinson, age 10, has gotten a court-order that bans him from, among other things, meeting 17 named individuals, using public transport, and being in a public place in West Yorkshire between 1900 GMT and 0730 GMT, unless accompanied by named family members. That is, he can't use public transport at all, and he is submitted to house arrest during off hours. He's ten years old.

Paul Daniels, age 14, can't be in a public place between 10pm and 7am unless accompanied by his mother, father or a grandparent, untill September 14 2007. On wednesdays, the curfew takes place on midnight. He is not allowed to meet with three or more people in public, if said people are aged 11 to 18 or family members, and except on lessons, he can't be on school grounds. That is, house arrest during off hours, and overruled freedom of association for a 14 year old.

A 16-year old with ADHD has been banned from entering parts of Sheffield. If he does enter these areas, he can be sentenced to 12 months in prison.

Luke Davis has been ordered to not go through the front door of his own house. He had been "attacking homes and cars" and "shouting obscenities".

15-year old Dean played football in the street. Dangerous yes. He received a court order with a map showing where he can't play football. He's also banned from going within 100 meters from the local Roseberry Sports and Community College and other things, including inciting others to commit these acts. "Let's go to school." would be an offense if the school in question would be the one mentioned above.

An 11-year old illeterate boy in a dysfunctional family were kicked out of school, and ended up on the wrong side of society - an outcast. After a number of juvenice offenses. When Times visited his family, the police came over at 10 in the morning and told his mother they would come back to arrest him later. He has now been issued an order that confines him to his home for the next five years. If he wants to leave his home, he can only use a specified route, marked in yellow on a map, leading to the outskirts of town - but only if he was accompanied by a "responsible adult".

Two brothers, 10 and 11 years old, in Nottinghamshire has been banned from participating in large groups, or going out night-time.

13-year old Michael had never been accused of anything before. But a while ago there were complaints - some anonymously - of, for example, vandalizing or shouting abuse. Based on these complaints, a court issued an order where Michael can't set his foot on several streets in his neighbourhood, or face the risk of being sentenced to five years.

These are just a short list of some of the most absurd and frightening examples I have found when researching about the ASBO, the Anti-social behaviour order. It was issued in Britain in 1998 under the Crime and Disorder Act.

What happens is that a person is complained about for disoderly conduct or anti-social behaviour, and a court state an order, naming a number of conditions that the person, the child, has to reach. If it is not reached, the child can instead be put in front of a criminal court.

There are two things that are quite astonishing when it comes to Asbo, aside from it being effectively making sentences made on a whim from a court against children:

* There is an old tradition in Britain, that when a child is convicted of a criminal offense, the anonymity to which young offenders are ordinarily entitled prevents anyone from discovering his name, what he looks like, or where he lives. This is not the case when it comes to the Asbo. Anyone can find these things out.

* Asbo cases are heard in civil courts, so the complaints against the defendant does not have to be proven beyond reasonable doubt, but merely judged on the balance of probability.

Since its implementation, thousands of Asbos have been issued in England and Wales, banning various children from everything from playing football to going through their own front door, as noted above. In Scotland, however, the Asbos are inherently and profoundly adverse to the judicial system that Scotland has (Scotland has a separate judicial system from that of the UK) Asbos are simply not compatible with scottish law implementation. Thus, only 4 Asbos has been issued there.

So as it seems, Britain has implemented a system where children can be, in effect, convicted to sentences depending on the will of a civil court, where their names are been made public and they do not have to be convicted by evidence, but by probability, and that's often for things that are not concidered crimes otherwise - it's well enough that someone can complain, even anonymously, that the child's behaviour is anti-social.

It does not bode well for Britain that they have effectively killed - ended, not put in jeopardy - all judicial security for children. Concidering how Britain also is the most monitored country in the Western World, and where effectively only two parties have the possibility to form a government, there is grounds for me to question the claim that the United Kingdom is actually a democracy.

Check out ASBOWatch list of child abuse.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

So what do you think should be done to those kids?

Thaumiel said...

That is a matter of debate, of course. But I think we can agree they shodn't be put behind bars without any evidence and put into public scrutiny, as that is not compatible with a just system.

Davey PB said...

The main point to note regarding ASBOs is that they are rarely enforced.

It's yet another "Look, we are doing something about the problem - honest!" approach to crime in the UK.

Thaumiel said...

Hello, davey pb.

I am not entirely certain that I agree on that notion. As of March 30, 2006, there has been 7,356 ASBOs handed out since 1999 (according to the Register). That's 700 a year, which I think is a lot of law enforcements on grounds of "probability". :)

Davey PB said...

Incorrect, they are not "enforcements" simply because they are issued.

They are not followed-up on, nor monitored.

Doesn't look like much "enforcement" is being done to me.