Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Who's being anti-social now?

Several people who have been sleeping out at Gatwick airport have apparently been given Anti-Social Behaviour Orders to stay away, and one has been severely lectured by a court for breaching the terms of it.

I suppose we have to accept that airports, like so much of what we fondly imagine to be public, social space, are in fact privately-owned and owners are entitled to specify the terms and conditions on which people use it: and camping out because it's warmer and drier than some alternatives is clearly not one of those.

But since when has it been "anti-social behaviour" to be somewhere you're not welcome?

The court was apparently told this man's presence at Gatwick did not cause any problems: but according to the law "anti-social behaviour" consists of "behaviour which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress", and the Home Office's guide lists possible examples which common sense would accept as meeting that definition:

- graffiti
- abusive and intimidating language
- excessive noise, particularly late at night
- fouling the street with litter
- drunken behaviour in the streets
- dealing drugs.

Nothing there about sleeping where you're not wanted.

Nothing there about not filling in slack hours buying things you don't really want.

Isn't wasting the time of courts a form of anti-social behaviour?

And while we're at it, Mr Guardian editor, since when has it been "asbo" as a word and not ASBO as an acronym?

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