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A Process and Impact Evaluation of the North Carolina Communities that Care Initiative

ASBOs and ABCs are both comparatively recent developments designed to put a stop to anti-social behaviour by the individuals on whom they are imposed. But they work in very different ways, and these differences will inform the judgement of professionals on which of them may be the best option in any particular case. The most obvious difference is that the ASBO is a statutory creation, and carries legal force; the ABC is an informal procedure, though not, as will be made clear, without legal significance. Both types of intervention are aimed at stopping the problem behaviour, rather than punishing the offender. Because the ABC is a voluntary contract, it has greater flexibility, while the ASBO, because of its more formal status, offers advantages in terms of enforcement. ASBOs were introduced by Section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and first used in 1999. Home Office research published in 20021 found that the orders had delivered real improvement in the quality of life to communities around the country; its use of civil law procedures and the wide powers granted to courts to impose conditions once satisfied that an ASBO was necessary were widely welcomed. But the research also made clear that these new procedures had brought new problems with them, and these problems were part of the explanation for the fact that in some parts of the country ASBOs were being very little used by practitioners. Once identified, the Government acted quickly to address these difficulties. The Police Reform Act 2002 contains five important changes, four of which are now (November 2002) being implemented. Courts may decide that an ASBO will be valid throughout the country; it will be possible to apply for interim ASBOs; registered social landlords and the British Transport Police will be able to apply for ASBOs; and it will be possible for a court to impose an order at the same time as passing sentence for a criminal conviction. From spring 2003 the fifth change, enabling county courts to impose orders under certain circumstances, will also be in force.