Wednesday, 30 May 2007

How to be good

ASBOs and ABCs..urgh, I'm getting sick of government acronyms and remain unconvinced as to their powers of conversion.

Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, ABCs, augment ASBOs, they have no legal status but let repentant oiks show how keen they are to adhere to their court order.

Now if you get done for shoplifting, nothing gets done to you. Someone commits a crime, they don't get arrested for theft, oh no, and now they don't even get a fine. Those guilty of petty larceny will soon be able to aviod any sort of punitive consequence by signing up to a six month ABC with their local constabulary. If they behave for the period of the contract, they walk away unpunished. The same goes for vandals and disruptive drunks who will be able to enter into an ABC.

Not surprisingly, retailers are livid.

Theft is, of course, anti-social behaviour. But nicking a telly is a more tangible offence than being a noisy neighbour - surely the wrongdoing is obvious, both God and the natural law prohibit it.

Kevin Hawkins, of the British Retail Consortium, expressed his anger at the plan to promote ABCs amongst thieves. He said: "We're all under an acceptable behaviour contract, that's what being a law-abiding citizen means."

Hear hear. We all adhere to a social contract with our governors and fellows and are privileged to have a liberal, democratic one. Perversely, none are so privileged as the offenders in question, who show a complete disrespect for society. The Labour nanny state is sometimes referred to as Draconian and overbearing, not so here, this measure seems like pure laziness.

Draconian would be imposing national service on criminals. Ah, one day...

We all appreciate that anti-social behaviour needs to be delt with. I actually think ASBOs are good in that they bring the perpetrator to the attention of his community, however what good are they as a real social sanction? You know that bloke down the end of the road has an ASBO, does he give a damn that you know? Nope, he's proud of it...There's no reaction. Without punishment - be it social shaming, incarceration or a monetary fine - how can there be limits to what is and isn't acceptable?

The Home Office website explains that: "The aim of an ASBO is to protect the public from the [anti-social] behaviour, rather than to punish the perpetrator." There you have it. Be good, or else.

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