Monday, August 31, 2009

Drink ASBOs - missing the point yet again...

And so we can expect the dawning of a new age of responsible drinking, following the introduction of so-called 'drink ASBOs'. Well, probably not.

You see, the problem is that ASBOs are merely a way of delaying action. In order to get an ASBO, you must have committed an offence, right? If you haven't, society has no right to stigmatise you, does it? All right, so you've committed an offence. The police find you and arrest you, charging you with the offence. So, instead of prosecuting you and punishing you, you get an ASBO. Breaching the terms of the ASBO is an offence, for which you will be prosecuted. Alright, I'm beginning to lose sight of the point of this arrangement.

Let's see now. Someone guilty of a criminal act is caught and given an ASBO. That person then needs to be monitored to ensure that they don't breach its terms. Police will be needed to do that, although PCSOs and CCTV cameras will be there in support. There will doubtless be a new offence linked to serving someone with an ASBO, placing the onus on publicans and their staff to be able to identify individuals.

It strikes me that it would be much easier to just charge an offender and have a formal process for punishment and rehabilitation instead. Apparently, we have such a thing already, known as a justice system, staffed with magistrates, judges and probation officers, with big buildings called courts and prisons.

Unfortunately, once again, this Government has gone for the complex and probably ineffectual, instead of using the array of tools that already exist. They're called laws, lest we forget...


Jono said...

Unfortunately, you are wrong. You can be issued with an ASBO for conduct which otherwise would not be criminal.

Aaron Trevena said...

Ah, you've missed the point of ASBOs - They bypass the justice system, to make something anti-social but not illegal, illegal as it were - anything from noisy pets to sunbathing naked or failing to keep your garden tidy.

Of course, there are laws for any serious anti-social behaviour like drunk and disorderly behaviour, but the police don't enforce them - usually because they don't actually have the ability to detain anybody.

For instance : Truro, a city with plenty of pubs and clubs and the associated drunken violence, not to mention plenty of other crime doesn't have a single holding cell - if police want to detain somebody in a cell, they have to drive them for 30 minutes to camborne, then spend the 30 to 60 minutes there, then spend another 30 minutes returning to Truro - and that's assuming there are any cells available.