Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, more commonly known as ASBOs, were introduced in Part 11 (adults) (PDF, 1.31 MB) and Part 13 (children) (PDF, 2.07 MB) of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 and commenced on 1st January 2007. This legislation provides the Gardaí with a new means of dealing with anti-social behaviour, although they still have recourse to existing legislation. It should be noted that what is discussed here is an incremental civil process that only becomes a criminal matter if the behaviour order itself is broken.
When a Garda becomes aware of anti-social behaviour she or he thinks warrants this response, the Garda may issue a behaviour warning to the person involved. This must include a statement from the Garda saying that the person has engaged in anti-social behaviour and stating where and when it took place. The behaviour warning will also explain that failure to desist from anti-social behaviour may result in application to the courts for a Behaviour Order. The behaviour warning lasts for three months.
In the case of people over 18 years of age, failure to obey a behaviour warning can result in direct application to the District Court for a behaviour order. However, in the case of a person under the age of 18 who does not obey the warning, there are further steps that must be taken before an application for a behaviour order can be made to the Children Court. For a child who has broken a behaviour warning, the next step may be a good behaviour contract. A good behaviour contract is essentially a plan to prevent the child engaging in further offending, made at a meeting involving the child, their parent(s) or guardian and the Gardaí. Such a meeting may only be called by a Garda Superintendent in charge of a district. The contract lasts for six months.
If the good behaviour contract is broken, or the Garda Superintendent does not believe it is working, several options are open to the Gardaí. The Garda Superintendent can either reconvene the meeting and renew the good behaviour contract, refer the young person to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme or apply to the Children Court for a behaviour order.
A behaviour order prohibits the adult or child from doing anything written in it. It is applied for in court by a senior member of An Garda Síochána. The issuing of a behaviour warning can be appealed to the Circuit Court. It is an offence not to obey a behaviour order, punishable by a fine of up to €3,000 and a prison sentence of up to 6 months in the case of an adult, or a fine of up to €800 and detention in a detention school for up to 3 months in the case of a person under 18 years of age.
In 2007, 443 behaviour warnings were issued to adults and 132 to children1. In the period from commencement of the enabling legislation on 1st January 2007 to 31st May 2008, 700 behaviour warnings were issued to adults and 351 to children. There have been ten formal Good Behaviour Contracts, which only apply in the case of children. There have been three applications by An Garda Síochána to the courts for behaviour orders, two adults and one child2.
The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in association with An Garda Siochana have issued a public information leaflet on the subject of ASBOs (PDF, 980 KB).
Visit the ASBO website at www.asboireland.ie