UK legal proposal: authorities can prevent anyone from doing anything for any reason

The UK's proposed new Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill creates a new kind of injunction, the Ipnas ("injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance"), which judges can hand down without proof of wrongdoing to anyone over ten, and send them to jail to violate them (kids go to young offenders centres for up to three months). Along with the Ipnas comes "dispersal orders," which police can use to order anyone to leave any public place for any length of time, for any reason, on their own say-so.

As George Monbiot writes in the Guardian "The new injunctions and the new dispersal orders create a system in which the authorities can prevent anyone from doing more or less anything."

The bill would permit injunctions against anyone of 10 or older who "has engaged or threatens to engage in conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person". It would replace asbos with ipnas (injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance), which would not only forbid certain forms of behaviour, but also force the recipient to discharge positive obligations. In other words, they can impose a kind of community service order on people who have committed no crime, which could, the law proposes, remain in force for the rest of their lives.

The bill also introduces public space protection orders, which can prevent either everybody or particular kinds of people from doing certain things in certain places. It creates new dispersal powers, which can be used by the police to exclude people from an area (there is no size limit), whether or not they have done anything wrong.

While, as a result of a successful legal challenge, asbos can be granted only if a court is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that antisocial behaviour took place, ipnas can be granted on the balance of probabilities. Breaching them will not be classed as a criminal offence, but can still carry a custodial sentence: without committing a crime, you can be imprisoned for up to two years. Children, who cannot currently be detained for contempt of court, will be subject to an inspiring new range of punishments for breaking an ipna, including three months in a young offenders' centre.

At last, a law to stop almost anyone from doing almost anything [George Monbiot/The Guardian]

(Image: HMP London, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from kradlum's photostream)