20 Years of the ASBO – A Retrospective on Infamous Cases, Statistics, Effectiveness

This year, the ASBO turned twenty years old. This particular form of crime fighting power – designed to crack down on behaviour that negatively affects local communities and causes harm or upset to particular groups or individuals – has taken on a new form in recent years, having now been split into a number of variations and imbued with some slightly more “positive” aims – but its purpose remains broadly the same.

What is an ASBO? Meaning and Definition

ABSO meaning

‘ASBO’  means anti-social behaviour order – and is a tool utilised by the UK police force to combat the rise of antisocial behaviour.

How can you get an ASBO?

According to, instances of this kind of behaviour include:

  • (Being) nuisance, rowdy or inconsiderate neighbours
  • Vandalism, graffiti and fly-posting
  • Street drinking
  • Environmental damage including littering, dumping of rubbish and abandonment of cars
  • Prostitution related activity
  • Begging and vagrancy
  • Fireworks misuse
  • Inconsiderate or inappropriate use of vehicles

While they have now been replaced by other approaches that are easier to enforce, many people still apply the title “ASBO” to the new criminal behaviour orders and notices.

What types of ABSO are there? – CPNS and CBOs

Many potential “ASBOs” are considered on a case by case basis, so lists of types of activity that may result one are rarely exhaustive.

Three categories have been created to replace the old Anti Social Behaviour Orders:

Civil Injunction – Civil Injunctions are available for both adults and under 18s, and exist “to place sanctions on perpetrators to stop their behaviour” and “to demand positive actions to address the underlying reasons for their behaviour, to reduce antisocial behaviour in the long term”.

CPN – Community Protection Notice. According to Askthe.Police, CPNs are “aimed to prevent unreasonable behaviour that is having a negative impact on the local community’s quality of life.” This type of notice can be handed down to anyone over 16, and often comes with an order to correct any relevant unacceptable behaviour and rectify problems created. Simply put, a CPN can constitute: “a requirement to stop doing specified things,  a requirement to do specified things” or “a requirement to take reasonable steps to achieve specified results.”

CBO – Criminal Behaviour Order. Anyone over 10 years old can be handed a CBO. Askthe.Police differentiate this type of order from a Civil Injunction or CPN by explaining that it “focuses on more serious offenders, who engage in criminal activity as well as anti-social behaviour. It can only be issued in conjunction with a sentence that is already imposed or if the individual has a conditional discharge”.

The new orders and notices are different to ASBOs in that not only do they implement suitable punishments and rules to prevent the continuation of antisocial behaviour, but they also offer positive ways in which this behaviour can be rectified – both in individual cases and for society as a whole.

ASBO Punishments, Rules and Penalties

The specific requirements of Civil Injunctions, CPNs and CBOs can vary as widely as the offences for which they are handed down. However, the subject of one of these orders may be required to:

  • Stay away from a particular place
  • Stop spending time with certain people
  • Work on improving your behaviour
  • Attend a course or support group
  • Fix damage you caused to someone’s property

If an ASBO order is breached, the subject could be slapped with a punishment of:

  • A three month detention order for under 18s (Civil Injunction)
  • Up to two years in prison, or an unlimited fine for over 18s (Civil Injunction)
  • A fine of between £100 and £2,500 (CPN)
  • Two years in a detention centre for under 18s (CBO)
  • Up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both for over 18s (CBO)

How Long Does an ASBO Last?

CPNs can be in place for an unlimited amount of time, while Civil Injunctions can last for up to twelve months and CBOs can remain in place for up to three years, with a minimum of twelve months.

Famous ASBO Cases

Due to the flexibility that local authorities are afforded when handing down Anti-Social behaviour orders, some constituencies can be considered more strict than others. It also means that some rather unusual orders have been issued in the past – along with ASBO applications that were deemed to be particularly unfair, such as the case of Johnny Walker – a busker slapped with an ASBO for setting up equipment in an area that did not require a busking licence – that was reported in Vice in 2017.

Because of the apparent vagueness inherent in the old ASBO system, breaches were common. At the height of their usage, it was reported by the Guardian than ASBOs were sometimes seen as a “badge of honour” by young people, rather than a punishment. In one case, a disabled man suffered a heart attack and died while being bullied by a group of young people – one of whom had already been handed an ASBO for harassing his family.

The new types of order that have replaced the ASBO are easier to enforce and encourage rehabilitation, meaning that stories of this kind will hopefully one day be a thing of the past.

What To Do if You Are the Subject of A Civil Injunction, CPN or CBO

If you are served with an order, notice or injunction that is intended to prevent you from behaving in a certain manner, visiting a particular location, spending time around certain people or undertaking particular activities, it is important to seek legal help straight away so that you can better understand your rights and any actions towards an appeal that you might be able to take. It is vital to adhere to the terms that have been laid down, or you may find yourself facing serious penalties, including prison time.

As long as you are not breaching your order or injunction, it’s a good idea to gather or preserve evidence that might help you fight the action that has been taken against you.