Super-ASBOs will make it super-easy to ban just about anything

This super-ASBO is a serious threat to free demonstrations, especially to students engaging in peaceful protest

Share
Related Topics

You remember ASBOs, right? The New Labour measure to ostracise unprivileged teens, harass prostitutes and stop a pensioner being sarcastic. You’ll be glad to know the government is passing a shiny new update. They’ll be in law by Easter: Super-ASBOs will make it super-easy to ban just about anything.

Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (catchy) can be slapped onto anyone who "on the balance of probabilities…engaged or threatens to engage in conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person." Tell the future? Check. Massively subjective? Check. Fines and jail-time? Check. Can last forever? Checkmate.

This super-ASBO is a serious threat to free demonstrations, especially to students engaging in peaceful protest. A loud, non-violent, legal march could be seen as potentially annoying, especially if (say) your poster reads ‘GET OUT TORY SCUM’ and the annoyee in question is Conservative. You don’t need to be breaking a law – breaking wsiind is enough to land you an IPNA if Officer A finds your wind offensive. If that sounds like exaggeration, remember the Oxford student fined for calling a police horse ‘gay’.

It’s difficult to stress how ambiguous the law’s wording is. I can get annoyed by commuter flatulence, by certain types of music, by babies screaming. Should I be able to ban them? The law is so wide that even the former head of public prosecutions – the lawyer the Blair government used to fight terror – has warned of ‘shockingly low safeguards’ for protesters, street performers and corner-preachers. ‘The danger in this Bill is that it potentially empowers State interference,’ Lord MacDonald continued.  

Not worried yet? The law also replaces Dispersal Orders. The new PSPOs are just supposed to stop 3am singing, dog-littering and aggressive begging. However, analysis by liberal think-tank The Manifesto Club shows specific groups can be targeted, for example X footy fans, Y ethnic groups or Z uni’s undergrads. Now all you need to do to be moved along, or intimidated before arrival, is indulge in ‘activities carried on or likely to be carried on in a public place… [that] will have or have had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality’. Like a sit-in. Or an Occupation. Or a march.

Human rights group Liberty reveal the new law fails to define ‘locality’, so bans could cover districts, cities or even counties, making the likes of the Sussex Uni Occupation impossible from the start. Those who planned the St Paul’s Cathedral tent city or pivotal demonstrations that stopped Britain attacking Syria could’ve been stopped at inception. The police already have the power to arrest student leaders who don’t warn councils of political action – this is the next logical step.

Anyone who turns up and breaches an order gets a £100 spot-fine. Fines can be delivered by private security firms like G4S, whose recent record includes alleged fraud, mucking up the Olympics and manhandling a pregnant woman. You could refuse to pay and face a trip to court, costing you £1,000 on conviction. Enough to terrify most cash-strapped students. Thanks, tuition fees. 

This boost to policing comes on the back of the government’s general lurch towards heavy-handed authoritarianism. Secret footage recently emerged of Cambridgeshire police trying to recruit a mole in university activism, with promises of reimbursement and advice not to ‘think too deeply’ about spying on fellow students at anti-fracking and anti-fascist movements.  We know from Eddy Snowden that GCHQ can tap your communications and pre-empt you if you’re planning a protest. If you’re frightened into staying home, watch out for Dave’s Porn Crusade. If you pop out for milk, look out for the ‘GO HOME’ van.

The not-so-Liberal Democrats have quietly supported the law in question, as part of the government’s fuzzy commitment to empowering local communities. The bill is so complicated that Labour’s opposition is virtually useless. I asked the Tory Prisons Minister, Jeremy Wright, about the concerns raised by the new powers. His response demurred, then concluded: "We have taken a careful, principled and pragmatic approach to finding this balance and as a result, both security and the protection of cherished civil liberties have been strengthened."

How annoying.

Jonathan Lindsell is a research fellow at Civitas think tank.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Analyst (Requirements gathering)

£23000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Data Analyst vacan...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am interested in speaking to Data Migr...

Web Services Developer

£200 - £450 per day: Harrington Starr: Web Services Developer Web Services, WP...

Project Manager - (Housing Association, Prince 2) - Watford

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Project Manager - (Housin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Brazil fans are devastated while watching the first half on Copacabana Beach during the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final match between Brazil and Germany on July 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The winner advances to the final at the famed Maracana stadium.  

The response to Brazil's defeat has been a surreal exploration of loss and tragedy

Timothy Kennett
The Daily Prophet newspaper - closer to fact than fiction?  

The response to the new Harry Potter story by the muggle media is fantastically ironic

Anna Leszkiewicz
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil