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Anti Social Behaviour Orders


Graffiti artists get them, fly-posters get them, and yes, prostitutes can get them too. ASBOs were introduced in the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998, supplemented by the Anti Social Behaviour Act of 2003.
Sometimes used by local authorities to "tidy up" areas of street prostitution. The process is of interest because it's essentially a civil matter, but the case has to be proven in Court to a criminal standard - "beyond reasonable doubt". The applicant has to convince a magistrate that the respondent has committed "acts causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress", and that it is necessary to protect persons from further anti-social behaviour. Both grounds have to be satisfied. The ASBO will usually forbid the prostitute from entering a particular locality. ASBOs are frequently seen as a bit of a joke, because those in receipt of them merely go elsewhere. Of some interest as a sentencing alternative to the more conventional fine, (and many magistrates are bored to tears by the "revolving door" of fining prostitutes)..... but do they work?


There are signs too that some of the other provisions of the Antisocial Behaviour Act are being used in connection with prostitution.

Antisocial Behaviour Closure Orders
Part IA of the Act (Premises associated with persistent disorder or nuisance) was supplemented by Section 118 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, and came into force in December 2008. Known as a Part 1A Closure Order or Antisocial Behaviour Closure Order the new Sections 11A-11L of the 2003 Act permit the police or local authority to apply to Magistrates to close premises where they are satisfied that within the preceding three months the premises have been associated with "significant and persistent disorder or persistent serious nuisance to members of the public." This may be applicable to brothels. The order can be made in respect of business or residential premises. Similar to the Part 1 Order (Crack House Closure Order), it becomes an offence to remain in or re-enter the premises for the duration of the order.

Antisocial Behaviour Injunctions (ASBIs)
This part of the Act was designed to “clean up” housing estates. Part II (Housing) amended housing legislation to require social housing organisations to adopt and publish policies on anti-social behaviour. It also strengthens the power of registered social landlords (RSLs = councils, housing associations) to take action against tenants who cause nuisance or annoyance to neighbours. It could be used against prostitutes working from home, if there are complaints. One power is that secure tenancies can be 'demoted' by order of a County Court, which in theory at least, makes eviction much easier. A further important provision provides a mechanism for RSLs to apply for injunctions against people causing nuisance and annoyance to people in the neighbourhood of their housing stock. Section 13 of the 2003 Act amended Part V of the Housing Act 1996 ('Conduct of Tenants'), by repealing Sections 152 and 153, and inserting new Sections 153A - 153E. Where a person is invited into residential premises by the occupier, in breach of an s.153A injunction, they commit an offence. This is significant in so far as if a prostitute has been issued with such an injunction, clients visiting her could face legal action.

Dispersal Zones
Although really designed to deal with groups ( a group is defined as two or more persons) of unruly teenagers, this device can be used in the context of prostitution. Police can also order people in a dispersal zone to leave the area and not return for 24 hours. A dispersal zone can be as small as the area surrounding a telephone box or as large as an entire open area of a housing estate or a shopping area; there are wide discretionary powers. A Police Superintendent or above can declare a dispersal zone, providing they have the support of the local council.

In theory, this means that councils and police, both of whom may be receiving complaints, have an opportunity to work together to resolve the problem.

The police announce the dispersal zone in the local press and post notices around the area affected. Once the area is established, any police officer or community support officer can implement the regulations.
There have been reports of the authorities using this measure to remove individuals; if they refuse to comply with it an offence has been committed and Section 5, Public Order Act could then be invoked, the old “obstructing a police officer….”

Penalties: Anyone failing to comply with direction to disperse is committing an offence and can be arrested and prosecuted. A maximum penalty is 3 months imprisonment, £2500 fine or both. A fixed penalty ticket is not available for this offence.

Many areas of London are designated as permanent Dispersal Zones, including the whole of Soho. Bedford Hill, Balham has been added recently. (see map: . http://thedispersalzone.org.uk/map.php)