Anti-social behaviour by adults
Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides for proceedings to be taken in Ireland against adults who engage in anti-social behaviour. Anti-social behaviour by children is addressed in a separate section of the Act and the rules regarding anti-social behaviour orders for children are different to the anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) for adults. The section of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 dealing with ASBOs for adults came into effect on 1 January 2007.
These provisions allow gardaí to deal with anti-social behaviour by adults through a civil process using behaviour warnings and orders. Failure to comply with a behaviour order is a criminal matter.
What is anti-social behaviour?
Anti-social behaviour occurs where a person causes or, in the circumstances is likely to cause, to one or more persons who are not of the same household as the person:
- Harassment or
- Significant or persistent alarm, distress, fear or intimidation or
- Significant or persistent impairment of their use or enjoyment of their property.
So, for example, if a neighbour is continuously playing loud music which was causing you annoyance and interfered with your peace and quiet this may amount to anti-social behaviour. Similarly, if large numbers of people are continuously gathering outside or near your property, or indeed your local supermarket, and their behaviour is causing you alarm, distress, fear or intimidation then this behaviour may amount to anti-social behaviour.
When do these provisions not apply?
These anti-social behaviour provisions do not apply where the behaviour is by a person under 18 years of age as anti-social behaviour by children is dealt with under different provisions. These provisions, also do not apply if the act or behaviour is subject to criminal proceedings against the person concerned.
What is a behaviour warning?
A behaviour warning is the first step that must be taken before an application can be made to the courts for a behaviour order or ASBO. A behaviour warning is a means of putting you on notice that your behaviour is causing others in the community distress or fear and is interfering with their enjoyment of their property and that you should cease or stop such behaviour. It includes details of the possible consequences of your failure to comply with the warning.
Who issues a behaviour warning?
A Garda may issue a behaviour warning to you if you are behaving in an anti-social manner. The Garda does not necessarily need to observe or witness the behaviour and can act on a complaint from any member of the public. A behaviour warning cannot be issued more than one month after the behaviour took place, or in the case of persistent behaviour, more than one month after the most recent occurrence of the behaviour.
The Garda can issue a behaviour warning verbally or in writing. If it is given verbally the Garda must record it in writing as soon as reasonably possible and then serve it on you personally or by post.
The Garda may require you to give your name and address for the purpose of the behaviour warning or for the written record of the warning.
How long does a behaviour warning last?
A behaviour warning remains in force for three months from the date on which it has been issued. If an application is made for an ASBO the behaviour warning remains in force until the application is heard by the court.
What is a civil order?
A civil order is an anti-social behaviour order or ASBO. A District Court may, on the application of a Superintendent of the Garda Síochána, issue a civil order or ASBO which prohibits you from doing anything specified in the order. Before the court issues the civil order it must be satisfied that:
- You have behaved in an anti-social manner
- The order is necessary to prevent you from continuing to behave in that manner
- Having regard to the effect or likely effect of that behaviour on other people, the order is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.
When can the gardaí apply for a civil order?
Before the Superintendent can make an application for a civil order at least one of the following conditions must be met:
- You have already been issued with a behaviour warning and have not complied with one or more of the demands of that warning
- You have been issued with 3 or more behaviour warnings in less than 6 consecutive months.
If the Superintendent decides to apply for a civil order, the Superintendent must inform you of the intention to apply for the order and give you the details of the time, date and venue of the court hearing. The application must be in the District Court district where you live.
You cannot be charged with, prosecuted or punished for an offence if the offence is the same behaviour that is the subject of an application for a civil order.
Can I appeal against a civil order being made?
Yes, you can appeal the making of the civil order to the Circuit Court. This appeal must be made within 21 days of the making of the order and the Superintendent must be notified. The Circuit Court may extend the appeal period if there are exceptional circumstances.
The order remains in force pending the outcome of the appeal unless the District Court or the Circuit Court puts a stay on the order.
The appeal takes the form of a rehearing of the application for a civil order. Depending on the outcome the Circuit Court can either make or refuse to make a civil order.
How long does a civil order remain in force?
Providing the civil order is not discharged or cancelled by the courts, it will last for two years unless a shorter period is stated in the order.
Can a civil order be changed after it is made?
A court can vary or discharge a civil order if an application is made by you or by a Superintendent of the Garda Síochána. If you are going to apply you are obliged to give notice of the application to the Superintendent of your local area. If a Superintendent intends applying he or she is obliged to notify you.
Are there any criminal offences relating to behaviour warnings?
When a Garda requests you to give your name and address in relation to the issuing of a behaviour warning and you fail to give your name and address, or you give a false or misleading name and address, then you are committing a criminal offence and are liable on conviction to a class E fine.
Are there any criminal offences relating to ASBOs?
If you, without a reasonable excuse, do not comply with a civil order issued by a court then you are committing a criminal offence and you are liable on conviction to a class B fine or imprisonment for up to 6 months, or both.
Is legal aid available for representation in court?
A Legal Aid (Civil Order) Certificate may be granted you, if you apply for it, depending on your financial circumstances and the seriousness of your anti-social behaviour. More information on Legal Aid Certificates is available here.
If you are affected by anti-social behaviour you should contact your local Garda station. You should supply as much information as possible about the behaviour. You can find the contact details of your local Garda station here.