Information Tribunal rules that ASBO names should be withheld

A journalist has been refused the right under freedom of information laws to receive a list of anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) recipients because disclosure of a person's name some time after the award of an ASBO is not the same as disclosure at the time.

The Information Tribunal overturned a ruling by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) that the Borough of Camden should provide a list of all ASBO recipients. The Tribunal said that negative publicity long after the award outweighed any journalistic benefit to be had by disclosure.

The Tribunal said that though names were read in court, the publishing at a later date of the name would be unfair because it did not take account of the fact that a person's behaviour could have significantly improved in the intervening time.

The original request was made by Guardian journalist David Leigh, who wanted to study the incidence of individuals being the subject of multiple ASBOs. Camden gave him an edited database with names and identifying information blacked out. Leigh complained to the ICO, which ruled that names should be given except in certain cases. Exceptions included names relating to ASBOs which had expired.

The Borough of Camden appealed to the Information Tribunal, which found that the ICO had erred in ordering publication. It said that the benefit to be gained by publication of names was likely to be outweighed by the damage done to ASBO recipients.

The Information Tribunal's ruling: The ruling (17-page / 222KB PDF).

Journalist has no right to ASBO names, says Information Tribunal (, 11 January 2008)