Jane Donoghue, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders: A Culture of Control?

AuthorAndrew Millie
Date01 January 2012
Publication Date01 January 2012
SubjectBook Reviews
Jane Donoghue, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders: A Culture of Control?, Palgrave Macmillan:
Basingstoke, 2010; 180 pp.: 9780230594449, £52.00 (hbk)
Timing and titles are both very important in publishing. Unfortunately, this book
was published just as the new Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition govern-
ment in Britain signalled a change in policy on anti-social behaviour. At a time
when the Home Secretary was stating ‘it’s time to move beyond the ASBO’ (May,
2010), it could be asked, what is the benefit of a book dedicated to ASBOs (Anti-
Social Behaviour Orders)? In fact, a book that reviews the ASBO could be extre-
mely useful for those developing (and studying) new policy for what will replace it.
Poor government monitoring has meant there has been little produced that eval-
uated this very high profile measure. However, Donoghue’s book is actually much
broader than the ASBOs of the title and covers the wider territory of anti-social
behaviour policy.
What Donoghue contributes to the debate is her differing perspective. In the
Preface she claims that, ‘much of the available literature on anti-social behaviour
policy and the use of ASBOs has necessarily been impaired by too much ideological
partisanship’ (p. viii). This is a peculiar criticism as behavioural enforcement and
penal policy are inherently political; and Donoghue has herself taken a political
stance – only a different one to most authors in favour of enforcement and the use
of the ASBO. She argues that, rather than being parts of a ‘culture of control’,
ASBOs and the associated ‘Respect Agenda’, ‘represent a socially progressive
attempt to address the pernicious and debilitating effects of anti-social behaviour’
(p. 3, emphasis in original). This is certainly a departure from much existing schol-
arship. What is proposed is that existing ASB policy offers ‘social protection’ rather
than ‘social control’.
After a scene-setting introduction, Chapters 2 to 5 cover familiar territories of
the politics of anti-social behaviour, ASB and social housing and historical context
– all adequately covered elsewhere (e.g. Burney, 2009; Millie, 2009a, 2009b;
Squires, 2008). The section on history is the more interesting in that it considers
the role of the individual and his/her need for ontological security. On moral panics
the author questions the position that ASB is exaggerated. Donoghue cites work by
Dennis (e.g. 2004) writing for the right-wing think tank Civitas, that supports the
idea that crime and moral behaviour have got worse over the last century.
However, the author does emphasize that, whether things are the same or worse
than before, what is important is that certain deprived communities suffer dispro-
portionately in contemporary Britain.
More specific focus on ASBOs comes from Chapters 6 and 7 where Donoghue
recounts research conducted as part of her PhD. This is where the book’s contri-
bution to understandings of anti-social behaviour is the most useful. Donoghue’s
research was into the courts’ use of ASBOs in Scotland and in England and Wales.
She suffered from access problems, meaning her data from north of the border are
based on interviews with 11 Sheriffs, while south of the border on a survey of 137
solicitors involved in prosecuting ASB cases. The lack of comparability is
Book Reviews 125

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