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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire, Britain’s largest Immigration Removal Centre  

Thanks to Channel 4 we now see just how appallingly Yarl’s Wood detention centre shames Britain

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
 

If I were Prime Minister: I’d ensure ministers took mental health in the armed forces as seriously as they take physical wounds

James Jones
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003