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Although not as cruel or shameful as being put in a stockade, another method to deal with low-level criminals or neighborhood nuisances is causing a stir in the United Kingdom.

It’s called an ASBO, or Anti-Social Behaviour Order, and it can be given to offenders as young as 10 years old.

The civil order, initiated by input from concerned community members, does not show up on criminal records but is designed to ban repeat offenders from carrying out certain anti-social exploits. An ASBO recipient could be prohibited from hanging out with particular friends or visiting selected areas, according to Britain’s Home Office Web site. In some instances, police can assess an on-the-spot fine.

There’s an array of behavior — not necessarily physical — that falls under ASBO, which was developed out of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Among behavior that can land someone an ASBO: excessive use of foul language, assault, criminal damage, theft, intimidation and bullying, racial harassment, homophobic behavior, drug and alcohol misuse and making noise.

The theory behind ASBO, which applies to the offender for at least two years, is that it is meant to protect the public from offensive behavior, not really to punish the perpetrator. However, if an ASBO is violated, an offender could face a fine or five years in prison, or a detention and training order for youth, the Home Office Web site said.

A group against this policing tactic, ASBO Concern, argues that the order can be used to criminalize behavior ordinarily considered to be legal. Under ASBO law, offenders have been banned from playing football, feeding pigeons, being sarcastic and riding a bicycle, according to www.asboconcern.org.uk.

The order is also a way to infringe on people’s rights to free speech and association, the organization says.

Special-needs children have even received ASBOs, according to a study by the British Institute for Brain Injured Children. Up to 35 percent of young people with ASBOs had a diagnosed mental disorder or a learning difficulty, the study revealed.

There also have been news reports of unruly youths going out of their way to snatch up an ASBO, which some see as a badge of honor.

The acronym gained so much popularity that in 2005 the Collins Dictionary inducted the word onto its pages in order to reflect recent changes in language and culture, according to BBC News.

Got a question about something you’ve seen or heard around the United Kingdom? E-mail us at: uknews@estripes.osd.mil

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