inaugural meeting of Asbo Concern
The gist of the meeting, both from speakers and from the floor, was that the serving of ASBOs was unreasonable, especially the serving of ASBOs on children.
Anti-social behaviour is not something dreamt up by evil politicians like Bliar to gain column inches in the Daily Gutter. It is a real and growing problem, especially for people living on rough estates.
Anti-social behaviour can be anything from unreasonable noise disturbing ones peace and quiet to juvenile thugs terrorising entire estates.
Speaker after speaker kept referring to the serving of ASBOs on children and how unreasonable this was. One got the impression they were referring to children out of a 1950s Famous Five story or the Victorian Railway Children, not the juvenile thugs who are running riot in too many areas. That the serving of ASBOs on these little thugs was in itself a crime.
In Aldershot, on the housing association slum estates, the residents would be only too grateful if a few ASBOs were served, they are begging for ASBOs to be served.
The juvenile thugs, oops sorry children, are terrorising the estates, making the estates no-go areas in the daytime, let alone at night: milkman attacked, postman attacked, vandalism, Asian shopkeepers threatened, their customers threatened, pet rabbits mutilated and nailed to doors, a girl raped in a stairwell, horses slashed, other kids attacked and beaten up, cars smashed etc.
Yes, the council has served ASBOs. They served ASBOs on harmless drunks sitting in the park. People who if any official intervention was needed, required help not punishment. A cheap publicity stunt to make it look as though the Council was on top of the problem and doing something. This is a council that cannot even get its act together to deal with noise nuisance from noisy neighbours. If you have a noise problem, they have a solution, you just have to suffer.
Yes, there are problems with ASBOs, and that is where we should be concentrating our efforts.
The use of hearsay evidence, the use of ASBOs to silence political dissent.
A number of horror stories were told: eviction at one hours notice based on hearsay evidence, prostitutes being harassed for walking on the wrong side of the road.
But do we not here have a failure of due process?
In the case of the prostitutes, there was an intervention by a woman who said she had acted for prostitutes, and had been successful.
We have a right to a fair trial. That cannot be based on hearsay evidence. There has yet to be a challenge in The European Court.
The latest SchNEWS (issue 492) gave several examples of abuse of ASBOs.
One was that of distributing anti-Iraq War leaflets.
But in many cases, simply calling their bluff is sufficient. Peter Sandy, a community activist, now a local councillor, was threatened with not only an ASBO but also eviction from his home for daring to challenge a housing association to carry out repairs. He called their bluff, and they backed down.
Too many of the people at the inaugural launch of ASBO Concern seemed to be social workers or similar who are 9 times out of 10 the root cause of many social problems, and if not, succeed in making the problems worse following their intervention.
The meeting was predominantly middle class, who of course don't experience the problems of anti-social behaviour.
I expected the greatest concern to be at the misuse of ASBOs to silence political dissent. It was touched upon, but that was all.
The one person who spoke a lot of sense at the meeting was a Black girl who talked of growing up on a rough estate and was now a youth worker. I would have liked to have talked to her, but she spoke at the end, having waited patiently all evening to speak, then left.
The head of Liberty spoke of how she got more correspondence on acting for a group of kids than she had acting for terrorists. I am not surprised, and it is to underestimate how people's lives are being made hell by anti-social behaviour. If these kids were innocent victims and had been unfairly dealt, that is fine, but not if we are attempting to protect juvenile thugs. Are not the people they terrorise more deserving of our support?
Do people not have the right, especially women, to walk the streets and feel safe? To not live in fear?
ASBOs may not be the answer, and maybe they should be reformed and replaced. But we must be very careful not to mix two different issues, the clampdown on anti-social behaviour and the misuse of that clampdown to silence political dissent. There is also the right of people to be different, if that right is not approved of by other people, but we overstep the line if in being different we intrude on other peoples right to enjoy their lives.
Why for example, should I have some arsehole making a lot of noise disturbing my peace and quiet. They are free to make as much noise as they like, so long as they do not disturb anyone else.
If a girl wishes to walk in her own garden or answer the door scantily dressed (as mentioned in SchNEWS) that is her right. If neighbours take offence, that is their problem. Similarly, if the neighbours from hell make a lot of noise, that should be their problem.
Matt Foot, Join our war against rampant unfair Asbos, Camden New Journal, 7 April 2005
Michelle Goldberg, Asbos should be protecting decent folk, letters, Hackney Gazette, 31 March 2005
Mike Lane, Council threatens dissident with ASBO!, Indymedia UK, 30 March 2005
J P Mckenna, Exploding the myth of the ombudsman, letters, Camden New Journal, 7 April 2005
Richard Osley and Jonathan Allen, Grounded by police, Camden New Journal, 7 April 2005
Keith Parkins, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, Indymedia UK, 28 June 2004
Keith Parkins, Misuse of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, Indymedia UK, 5 July 2004
Anna Stewart, Asbos are making life better for our neighbours, letters, Islington Tribune, 25 March 2005
Worst Asbos ever!, Schnews, Issue 492, 8 April 2005