In a previous post, pommygranate discussed the importance of being allowed to offend. Socially, we’re at the point where people can simply declare, “I’m offended by that”, as though it’s the end of the matter – and in an increasing number of cases, they even have the law on their side!
In Australia, we have anti-vilification laws, which are bad enough – but in the UK, they have something much worse: Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, or ASBOs. Skepticlawyer discussed these in the past (at catallaxy):
ASBOs are civil orders, not a criminal penalty. This means they don’t appear on an individual’s criminal record – at least initially. However, breach of an ASBO is a criminal offence punishable by a fine or up to five years in prison. Crucially, their civil status means there is no objection to the use of hearsay (the UK abolished the rule against hearsay in civil proceedings in 1995). Oh, and then there’s the definition, under section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Anti-social behaviour is “behaviour which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more people who are not in the same household as the perpetrator”. As you’ll appreciate, it’s entirely subjective.
The latest of these incidences has seen a “nuisance neighbour” jailed for twenty weeks. His crime? Whistling the “Addams Family” tune whenever he saw his neighbours.
Anyone who has had neighbour disputes knows they aint pretty… and this guy was being extremely immature and… well, a bit of as asshole… but what struck me about this article wasn’t simply the excessive punishment for basically “causing offence,” but the sense of entitlement of the complainants. Click the link, and check out their photo to see what I mean. This story is not presented as one of over-the-top nanny-statism – but as one of “justice being served” in defence of a poor elderly couple. They were offended, and that’s the end of the matter.
Kevin Rudd offends me most times he opens his mouth. Although he is clearly whistling a different tune.
This sort of lunacy is a consequence of other state interventions.
There was a time when the tort of nuisance might have provided redress against more serious cases of anti social behaviour. A tort is a civil wrong and apart from providing the court system, the government is not involved. Except for negligence, torts have largely been replaced by statute ie government intervention.
It was also once possible to give someone a hiding and not be charged with assault. The government has intruded there too.
There needs to be a mechanism for arseholes to be made accountable, but as usual the government’s jackboots are not the solution.
Twenty weeks? For whistling? Being hauled into court is a bit of a punishment. Even being thrown in jail for a week would be pretty severe. Twenty weeks? Just incredible.
It’s pretty extreme…
With “thought crimes” you can be charged for what goes on inside your own head. With “offence crimes” you can be charged with what goes on inside the head of someone else.
ASBOs are not a lot different to “Move-On” orders that police are allowed to issue to anyone they want in Western Australia.
Hmmm… as bad as move-on orders are, ASBOs are quite a bit more extreme, and can apply to a whole bunch of situations. They even had a case where the family of a 3yo autistic boy had to front up to an ASBO officer because he was “too noisy” on his trampoline. Check out ASBO watch for some more stories.
Move-On orders don’t even require any antisocial behaviour. Simply being in a place where the police don’t want you to be is enough to warrant a Move-On order.
Yeah, not sure if we actually have move on laws in NSW, but the cops certainly think they’re entitled to – I’ve seen it on numerous occasions – and they probably have the law on their side.
Certainly an arbitrary power, isn’t it? Last I saw it used was at the train station, and the bloke in question was doing absolutely nothing wrong – the cops were just making work for themselves – and when the bloke replied he was waiting for his son… they didn’t like being talked back to.
The stormtroopers on the trains (ie, fake cops) are just as bad. I’ve seen so many incidences lately, that I’ve started carrying my camera around with me – though I suspect using it would get me into trouble as well.
There is nothing new with figures in authority abusing power. Far worse than ASBO in my opinion is local councils in England using anti-terror legislation, the RIPA act, to follow families to see if they are putting children into the correct schools and the like. I will post some links and a paragraph or so from each link.
Poole Borough Council has admitted using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), designed to regulate snooping by police and other bodies, to check the usual address of a three-year-old child applying for a primary school place.
The council is unrepentant and said it will continue to use powers available to it under the Act.
First the bad news. An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph suggests that three-quarters of local authorities have used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 over the past year. The Telegraph put in a Freedom of Information request to Councils, seeking to identify which Councils had used their RIPA powers. Out of the 115 who responded, 89 councils had done so in the last 12 months.
Local councils are using snooping laws – the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act – to follow dog walkers suspected of letting their dogs crap on public land and people suspected of littering.
RIPA is meant to control how investigating bodies like the police and secret services can snoop on citizens’ communications and movements. But the Press Association has found that 46 councils used the legislation 1,343 times against residents.
“Twenty weeks is a bit extreme”. Maybe he was a really bad whistler?
Those councils seem to be getting out of control- a lot like some of the councils in Victoria, who compelled people to have lots of trees near their houses, so it would look nice. We need a Magna Carta on what Councils can and cannot do!
Sometimes they have humorous outcomes. Again a link and a paragraph from the article.
A Northumberland teenager has been granted every tearway’s dream – an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (Asbo) requiring him to get drunk and “to use threatening behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to members of the public”.
You know what would be interesting? Getting one of the members here to bring up some kind of legal case against the site for not warning visitors that the word “asshole” would be used, in a derogatory context, in one of the posts. Of course, if the case gets anywhere we can drop it. If anything, good publicity, hey?
But seriously, jail time is just ridiculous. Obviously this guy is an anti-social, may have other issues too (I mean, it went on for 4 years) and jail is simply not the answer. Who’s to say what he’ll do when he comes back to his home next door to the couple after 20 weeks?
In the UK, there are also councils whacking people with big fines for slightly over-filling their rubbish bins. The place as gone to the dogs.
How do they police people putting rubbish in their neighbour’s bin? CCTV? Of course, people will just dump rubbish somewhere other than their bin.
We have already had councils in Sydney putting infrared devices in their bins to collect data for “research purposes”… I fear it’s only a matter of time before we follow suit.
you think soccer is bad? You should see the latest studies on gridiron in the USA. There are now documented cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy arising from Gridiron hits. This will massively increase the risk of latter dementia.
Seriously, John, would it make much difference to some of those players? The IQ is on the left side of average is my guess except maybe for the quarterback
As with most people you think of brain damage solely in terms of cognition. Actually cognition is not the major problem. The major problems are depression, loss of impulse control, poor life planning skills, fatigue, disrupted sleep patterns, altered endocrine and immunological functions.
If the same research was done on Rugby players expect bad results. The preliminary research pointed this well over a decade ago. Combine this type of brain trauma with steriods and you can begin to understand the rates of crime and stupidity in rugby league players.
Here is a little something I wrote about taking offense. I also talk about how “offense” is undermining our rights here and here and here.
Troy; Your second last ‘here’ link is not working, but its great stuff. Keep in touch will you?
Imagine if Australia gets a Bill of Rights?The s**t will really hit the fan.
Ahh yes, the joys of the ASBO. It’s a laugh a minute around these parts, except for the poor bastards who cop one, of course.