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Saturday, February 26, 2005

An ASBO too far?

Is it only me who finds this small piece in today's Guardian rather bizarre? The paper reports that magistrates have attempted to ban a woman from committing suicide after police complained about her repeated bungled efforts to take her own life. They have issued an anti-social behaviour order banning her from going near railway lines, rivers, bridges and multi-storey car parks. She can only go to car parks if accompanied and to park a car. The order is for two years and Ms. Sutton faces jail if she breaches it. The Guardian reports that:

The bench was told that Kim Sutton, 23, had attempted suicide four times.

She was rescued from the river Avon three times, had been found "hanging by her fingertips" from a railway bridge, and was repeatedly spotted loitering at the top of multi-storey car parks.

The court heard that Sutton caused panic when she was spotted in the Avon last summer. Two bystanders were about to jump in when police arrived and hauled her to safety.

In August she was found clinging to the parapet of a railway bridge. Train services were halted and she was rescued.

In November Sutton was rescued from the Avon twice in two hours. On the second occasion she told the gardener who had dived in to rescue her to leave her alone.

I am sure that the Police and Magistrates are acting to protect the public from putting themselves at risk in seeking to rescue Ms Sutton but one has to ask if this is the most appropriate course of action. Somebody who is that intent on killing themselves may not particularly care about the threat of imprisonment on the basis that she will not be around to suffer the consequences. Alternatively, if Ms. Sutton is doing all this to attract attention to a particular issue in her life then it would seem that perhaps she needs medical help rather than to be criminalised.

In the old days surely, this sort of attention-seeking behaviour would have led to the perpetrator being sectioned for treatment. It is no wonder that ASBOs are getting a bad name.
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