Charities alarmed as autistic man is hit by Asbo

Andrew Robinson DISABILITY charities have expressed concerns after an autistic man from Yorkshire was handed a temporary antisocial behaviour order to curb his odd tendencies.

The order against Mark Smith, who has Asperger syndrome, bans him from touching people and saying inappropriate things in public.

The condition has been described as a type of autism which affects social and communication skills but IQ is often normal or high. Mr Smith, 32, has also been told he cannot stroke or sniff any part of a person or hang around a certain area when children are going to or from school.

The interim order was granted by Bingley magistrates after an application by Bradford Council which said a previous Asbo against Mr Smith had been successful in limiting his obsessive behaviour.

When the two-year order ended in April, Mr Smith started to cause problems again.

The new Asbo compels Mr Smith, of Kirkgate, Shipley, to attend twice weekly at the Sacar Centre, a Bradford charity which has offered him support and therapy.

The order also bans him from hitting people, saying inappropriate things and damaging property.

A police officer told the court that Sacar staff had asked for the Asbo to be reapplied as they felt he had benefited. The new order will run until September 25 when Mr Smith is back in court.

The use of Asbos on such people is causing concern for several groups, including the National Autistic Society.

A spokeswoman said Asbos on their own would not be effective against someone who did not understand social norms.

The British Institute for Brain Injured Children said Asbos were also being unfairly given to under-18s with autism and similar conditions. "We are finding that in some areas the only way people can get help is if they are given Asbos. It is very unfair. Earlier intervention is needed," a spokesman said.

Pressure group Asbo Concern warned that Asbos criminalised people who needed help, not punishment.

A Bradford Council spokes-person said: "Applying for an antisocial behaviour order is always a last resort. We consulted all the agencies involved with the care of Mark Smith before making the application, and they supported the action by the council.

"This is the second anti-social behaviour order imposed on Mr Smith, and the first one was very successful. It enabled him to get the help needed to control his behaviour.

"The magistrates considered carefully the justification for imposing an anti-social behaviour order on Mr Smith and felt it was necessary for the protection of the public."