The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

My Photo
Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Asbo, Asbas, Asbat, Asbamus, Asbatis, Asbant

I Asbo, you Asbo, he/she Asbos.....aw heck, you know the rest.

As I have often said I have considerable reservations about many of the Anti-Social Behaviour Orders that have been handed out in recent years, in particular where the offender has deep-rooted behavioural problems, mental illness, or an intractable addiction. In most of these cases breach is highly likely, and prison sentences inevitably follow. I know of several local drunks who have committed multiple breaches of Asbos forbidding them to be drunk in the street, and who have served up to half a dozen custodial sentences, of increasing length, for behaviour that, when charged as simple drunkenness, is punishable only with a fine on the lowest scale (and in practice that is very frequently deemed served by the time spent in custody).
Having said that, I sometimes find the order to be a useful addition to a sentence, when it is made post-conviction and of the court's own motion.
Last year I sat on an odd little trial of a local man who was intelligent and articulate, but who was plagued with obsessions about a vast range of issues ranging from sport to the geopolitical. He had deluged scores of strangers with letters and phone calls bewailing the appalling state of the world as he saw it, and unfortunately those messages frequently contained the most foul racial and ethnic abuse, liberally sprinkled with the fruitiest obscenities offered by the English language. He pretty much admitted the lot in his evidence, so we eventually convicted him, and were then faced with the problem of what to do with him. We came up with an appropriate sentence, plus costs, and we added a rider that we would put the case back for an hour because we had it in mind to make an Asbo. We told him what we intended to forbid him from doing (Asbos can only be prohibitive) and invited the lawyers to get their heads together to draft the wording. When we came back our man said that he did not object to the Asbo, so we made the order forbidding in some detail any repetition of the offensive communications, and I spelt out the consequences of a breach , which could be as much a a five year sentence. I hope and expect that will do the trick; he had been punished, and given a strong incentive to desist from his behaviour.