Antisocial behaviour orders (ASBOs)

If antisocial behaviour is a really big problem in your area, your local council or registered social landlord might be able to get a special kind of court order, called an antisocial behaviour order (ASBO), to stop it. Read this page for more information on what they are and how they work.

What is an antisocial behaviour order?

An antisocial behaviour order (ASBO) is an order, given out by a court, to stop a person from behaving in certain ways or doing certain things. It's not meant to be a punishment - the idea is to prevent further distress and alarm caused by antisocial behaviour.

An ASBO is a civil court order. This means that it is not a criminal conviction and therefore does not give a person a criminal record. However, a person can still be prosecuted for criminal behaviour and be put in prison or fined, even if they already have an ASBO against them. Someone with an ASBO against them can also be prosecuted if they breach the terms of it.

ASBOs are not an easy way out for the person who has been causing the problem, they are just a different way of tackling the issues and preventing the antisocial behaviour.

Sometimes an ASBO can be imposed on a person as part of their sentence (or 'disposal') if they have been found guilty of a crime. These are called 'ASBOs on conviction'.

ASBOs contain specific terms and conditions that say exactly what the person cannot do, or where they cannot go. For example, an ASBO may say that a person can't play loud music at certain times or that they can't hang about in your street or stairwell. The conditions in an ASBO might apply for a limited period of time or indefinitely. Not every ASBO will be the same because each ASBO will be for a different person and different circumstances.

What is an interim ASBO?

The court can also decide to impose a temporary ASBO (an 'interim ASBO') until it considers all the evidence and decides what to do in the long term. A court is most likely to do this if there's any danger to the public, although they will consider the evidence to decide whether or not an interim order is appropriate in the circumstances.

What's the difference between an ASBO and an antisocial behaviour notice?

It's important to realise that an ASBO is different from an antisocial behaviour notice (ASBN). It's easy to get confused between the two because they sound so similar. The main difference is:

  • an ASBO is given to a person who is behaving antisocially

  • an ASBN is given to a private landlord who is not taking steps to stop their tenants behaving antisocially.

Find out more about antisocial behaviour notices.

When can ASBOs be used?

ASBOs can be used in a variety of different situations where there is ongoing antisocial behaviour. For example, ASBOs can be used when support (such as counselling or mediation) has been tried or warnings have been given but the behaviour has not improved. ASBOs can also be used at an early stage alongside other support systems such as counselling. In most cases, there are lots of other solutions that can be tried before applying for an ASBO. Again, it's important to remember that every situation is different and may need a different approach.

ASBOs can be granted to deal with problem neighbours and other disturbances in your street or area and they can also be used in a whole variety of places as long as the person (or people) behaving antisocially and the people affected by the behaviour do not live in the same household. For example, they can be used to deal with antisocial behaviour in shopping centres or even bus or train stations. For more information on the kind of behaviour covered, read the page about

However, ASBOs won't be appropriate in every situation. For example, if you have been arguing with your neighbour over who owns the boundary between your houses, if there are no other issues (such as behaviour), an ASBO wouldn't be the right way to deal with the problem and the court probably wouldn't grant one.

What if the person has a disability or medical problem?

If you are being disturbed by antisocial behaviour, it's worth remembering that the person who is causing it might not be able to control their behaviour.

An ASBO might not be appropriate if a person is behaving in a certain way because of a medical condition, behavioural problems or a disability. The reason for this is common sense - an ASBO won't work if the person can't control their behaviour. However, if a person has the capacity to understand right from wrong then action can be taken to prevent them from behaving antisocially.

These things are not straightforward and it would probably be necessary to get evidence from a doctor to work out if there is a medical problem or not. First of all, the extent of the medical condition would have to be established and alternative support may be offered to the person to help them to understand and/or control their behaviour.

This is a complicated area and you should seek further advice if you think it affects you.

What happens if an ASBO is breached?

It is a criminal offence to break the terms of an ASBO and this would go on the person's criminal record. If the person who has the ASBO against them doesn't comply with the terms of it, you can report it to the police, who have powers to arrest them.

Can ASBOs be granted against anyone?

Yes. It doesn't matter where you live, whether you own your house or are renting it from the council, a housing association or a private landlord, an ASBO can be granted against anyone who is causing a problem in your area. The person causing the problem doesn't have to live near you and ASBOs can be granted against people who don't have a fixed address.

Is there an age restriction on ASBOs?

It is now possible to get an ASBO against any person from the age of 12 upwards.

If the person is between the ages of 12 and 15 years old, the council will also have to speak to the Principal Reporter to the Children's Hearing System before applying for an ASBO. The judge in the case has to take the advice of the children's hearing into account when deciding whether or not to impose an ASBO on someone of this age.

Can I apply for an ASBO against someone?

Although ASBOs can help to improve the community you live in, you can't actually apply for an ASBO yourself. Only the council or a registered social landlord can apply to the court for an ASBO so it's important to report any problems to them first of all so they have a record of what's been happening.

As well as reporting incidents, you can ask your council or a registered social landlord to apply for an ASBO, although they don't have to do so.

The council or registered social landlord must speak to the police before applying for an ASBO. If a registered social landlord is applying for an ASBO, they have to tell the council first.

The person who's accused of behaving in an antisocial manner can appeal against the application for an ASBO.

All councils in Scotland must have systems in place to deal with antisocial behaviour and you can read more about this in our page on dealing with antisocial behaviour. Both the council and registered social landlords have to work with the police in finding the best solution to antisocial behaviour (these are called 'antisocial behaviour strategies') and, in some cases, they may decide that applying for an ASBO is not the best way of tackling the problem.

What if the council won't take action?

The council has a duty to investigate potential antisocial behaviour. It may decide that it would not be appropriate to apply for an ASBO in a particular situation. Most councils now have dedicated antisocial behaviour teams so contact them if you would like to know why a particular decision has been taken.

If you are not happy with a decision (for example, if the council has decided not to apply for an ASBO for your neighbour and they are still making your life a misery) then you should contact the antisocial behaviour team in your local council first of all. Hopefully they will be able to deal with your concerns but, if not, they should be able to direct you to the formal complaints procedure within the council.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 29 December 2014

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