What a Horrible Law

Via Reason:

Because, unbelievably, Cartwright had previously been served with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO)"”a civil order that is used to control the minutiae of British people's behaviour"”that forbade her from making "excessive noise during sex" anywhere in England.

This case sheds harsh light not only on the Victorian-style petty prudishness of our rulers, who seriously believe they can make sexually expressive women timid again by dragging them to court, but on the tyranny of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders themselves. Introduced by our authoritarian Labour government in 1998, anyone can apply for an ASBO to stop anyone else from doing something that they find irritating, "alarming," or "threatening."

Local magistrates' courts issue the orders, sometimes on the basis of hearsay evidence (which is permissible in "ASBO cases"). In short, the applicant for an ASBO does not have to go through the normal rigors of the criminal justice system in order to get a civil ruling preventing someone he doesn't like from doing something that he finds "alarming" or "dangerous." Once you have been branded with an ASBO, if you break its conditions"”by having noisy sex in your own home, for example"”you are potentially guilty of a crime and can be imprisoned.

The ASBO system has turned much of Britain into a curtain-twitching, neighbor-watching, noise-policing gang of spies. The relative ease with which one can apply to the authorities for an ASBO positively invites people to use the system to punish their foes or the irritants who live in their neighborhoods.

I don't really have much time to comment on this, but is there any need?  And for those smug enough to think this will never happen in the US, just look on college campuses today, where a number of universities are coming awfully close to creating a right not to be offended, and allowing students to define crime as anything that offends them.  And it almost goes without saying that such standards tend to be enforced unevenly, depending on the ideology of those who happen to be in charge.


  1. Bobby L:

    From Wikipedia: Linda Sanchez introduced the "Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act," H.R. 1966, a bill which would criminalize the use of electronic communications if "the intent is to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person."

    Buh-bye First Amendment!

  2. nicole:

    I had heard of ASBOs before, but until I saw that piece yesterday in Reason I hadn't realized private parties could bring them against other private parties for virtually anything they pleased. I thought they were some sort of first-warning-type citation for actually, you know, committing a minor crime. (I certainly thought they were bad, because I knew the Brits considered a lot of noncriminal things to be "minor crimes"...but not loud sex.)

    I'm a dual citizen but when people have no protections against overreaches like this I couldn't imagine ever moving to the UK. They really are living in 1984 and, somehow, most of them don't seem to mind so much.

  3. Evil Red Scandi:

    We have these in here in the US; we just call them Home Owner's Associations.

  4. David:

    Have all US parents ceased teaching their children that "stick and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me"? Think about it: That single adage, when adopted by a culture, is a potent, proven antidote to repugnant 'hate crime' legislation; the above-mentioned ASBO follies; and the cancerous scourge of political correctness.

    What the hell is wrong with everybody?

  5. James H:

    I have a logical trap for those who would propose a law against saying or writing something that someone else may find offensive, threatening, whatever. Just write to the congressperson or whoever and tell them that you find this sort of law, and any discussion or writing about it, very offensive and threatening. Now, if they continue writing such laws, you could presumably pursue consequences against them if they were passed.

  6. Dr. T:

    It's time to bring back stoning. People who propose or support such stupid and intrusive laws should be stoned. They obviously are too sensitive to live in communities without constantly feeling threatened or offended, so the stonings would really be mercy killings.

  7. Bill:

    The US already has these.

    "Personal Protection Orders"