The new ASBO is an assault on our liberty

iStock_000005413496Small[1]Are you a Christian preacher, busker or peaceful protester? Ever gotten the feeling that people find your presence annoying? Well, draconian new powers proposed by the Home Office could mean that you will be driven from the streets.

Controversial Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) are set to be scrapped and replaced with a far wider reaching scheme called Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNAs), which are designed to be easier to obtain, require a lower evidential threshold and cover a wider range of behaviour.

We have previously warned that antisocial behaviour is a widespread problem for many communities and ASBOs have done little other than exacerbate tensions within communities and has failed to address the weaknesses within the legal system for dealing with perpetrators.

Currently, ASBOs can only be issued if a court is fully satisfied that someone has caused or threatened to cause “harassment, alarm or distress” to someone else and the order is therefore “necessary” to protect the victim. Under the new system, the courts will be able to impose sweeping curbs on people’s freedoms if they believe an individual is “capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person”.

The House of Lords is currently considering the Antisocial Behaviour Bill and one member of Lords, the former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Macdonald, has raised serious concerns about the proposals. He warns that in the case of political demonstrations, street performers and corner preachers “the danger in this Bill is that it potentially empowers State interference against such in the face of shockingly low safeguards and little apparent acknowledgement of the potential effect of its provisions on the ability to exercise core rights without undue interference.”

Earlier this year parliament voted to ditch a law which criminalised the use of insulting words or behaviour, yet this proposed legislation is potentially even worse. It will do little to deter criminals, hooligans and thugs, but will give the authorities a huge amount of power to curtail individuals’ freedoms for doing little other than proving to be a nuisance. This legislation is badly conceived, poorly drafted and naïve in its attempts to tackle criminal behaviour.