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4 UK Urban Explorers Face Orders Not To Talk With Each Other For 10 Years 387

First time accepted submitter Trapezium Artist writes "Four friends apprehended exploring the disused Aldwych station in London's Underground are faced with an 'anti-social behaviour order' (ASBO) which would forbid them from talking to each other for a full 10 years. The so-called 'Aldwych four,' experienced urban explorers, were discovered in the tunnels under the UK's capital city a few days before last year's royal wedding and the greatly increased security measures in place led to their being interviewed by senior members of the British Transport Police. Nevertheless, once their benign intentions had been established, they were let off with a caution. However, following an accident caused by another, unrelated group of urban explorers in the tunnels a few months later, Transport for London applied to have ASBOs issued to the Aldwych four. These would forbid them from any further expeditions, from blogging or otherwise publicly discussing any exploits, and even from talking with each other for the 10 year duration of the order. One could argue about the ethics of urban exploration, but this nevertheless seems like an astonishingly heavy-handed over-reaction by TfL."
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4 UK Urban Explorers Face Orders Not To Talk With Each Other For 10 Years

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  • by sethstorm ( 512897 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @04:44AM (#39162667) Homepage

    I'd imagine there'd be a way to comply with the heavy-handed order while having a venue that is out of reach of the ASBO.

    • by alienzed ( 732782 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @04:50AM (#39162681) Homepage
      Yeah, like, another country.
    • by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @06:28AM (#39162951) Journal

      I'd imagine there'd be a way to comply with the heavy-handed order while having a venue that is out of reach of the ASBO.

      Can they communicate indirectly, via mutual friends?

      If not, then since they likely have a number of mutual friends, they are effectively being told not to communicate with anyone who communicates with others in the affected group. After all, what if a mutual friend mentions something one of the other members of the affected group said? How about indirect communication via two degrees of separation? If they are forbidden from indirect contact, then the order is perilously close to requiring solitary confinement or other drastic social exclusion.

      An exclusion which prohibits communication with mutual friends is likely a good test case for the ECJ [] or the ECHR []. Similarly, an order which imposes an onerous obligation on mutual friends which were not subjects of the order, would be a good test case for said mutual friends to bring to the ECJ or ECHR.

      • by gilleain ( 1310105 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @06:46AM (#39163009)
        Reminds me of a story by Will Self called 'Between the Conceits', the first in the book Grey Area []. In it, all of London is controlled by just 7 people, who communicate with each other by elaborate mass orchestration of mundane movements of the other Londoners.

        I stretch, then relax - and 33,665 white-collar workers leave their houses a teensy bit early for work. This means the 6,014 of them will feel dyspeptic during the journey because they've missed their second piece of toast, or bowl of Fruit 'n' Fibre. From which it followed that 2,982 of them will be testy through the morning; and therefore 312 of them will say the wrong thing, leading to dismissal; hence one of these 312 will lose the balance of his reason and commit an apparently random and motiveless murder on the way home.

        Hmm. Don't think I can really explain this with one quote. The first chapter is readable here [].

      • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @09:30AM (#39163389)

        Yes, I suspect this wont survive judicial review in court.

        But then, they repeatedly gave the lady who was too noisy when having sex ASBOs and seemed to win in court when she carried on fucking regardless of them so who knows.

    • I'd imagine there'd be a way to comply with the heavy-handed order while having a venue that is out of reach of the ASBO.

      Yes, by staying in the UK.

      The order is absurd and totally disproportionate if the guardian story is to be believed. The courts in the UK will never uphold it under even the mildest of appeals.

      An oft forgotten fact about laws in the UK is that they are not absolute, indisputable edicts. Ultimately the courts decide on the scope of any law, and that is what case law and precedent is all abo

  • by mykos ( 1627575 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @04:45AM (#39162669)
    I don't think anyone has been told who they can and can't be friends with since they were about 10. Now the government gets to decide? Alan Moore is a prophet.
  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jmanamj ( 1077749 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @04:45AM (#39162671)

    I swear to God. This is the premise for a fiction/science fiction novel. If two of the 4 were developing romantic feelings for each other the UK could be sued for copyright infringement by several publishers. I dont...I dont think I'm OK with the world right now. I need a hug. Before that's banned too.

  • Are they serious? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by msobkow ( 48369 )

    They were let off with a warning, but some bozo expects to issue a court order demanding that a group of friends NOT EVEN TALK TO EACH OTHER for a DECADE?


    I mean, seriously, WTF?!?!?!?!

  • Unenforceable? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sam_paris ( 919837 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @04:49AM (#39162679)
    I may be completely missing the point here, but this ruling seems completely unenforceable. How do you stop four friends talking to each other if they are not incarcerated? There are a hundred and one ways to talk to people in this modern age and many of those are anonymous and not easily tracked or monitored.

    This just seems like one of those sentences which is "harsh" to make a point but doesn't actually make any difference to how these men will communicate. That said, it's also completely ridiculous that these people with no ill intent were made such an example of, and that they were given a punishment which is illogical and far too much trouble than it's worth to enforce.
    • Re:Unenforceable? (Score:4, Informative)

      by philip.paradis ( 2580427 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @04:56AM (#39162709)

      How do you stop four friends talking to each other if they are not incarcerated?

      You stop them by threatening to incarcerate them if they break the order. Add in a dash of behind the scenes, off the record, "if any of you violate this order, we'll be very nice to any of the others that report it to us" and you have a winning combination.

    • Re:Unenforceable? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 26, 2012 @05:02AM (#39162733)

      You incarcerate them when you catch them breaking the ruling. ASBOs are a huge end-run around due process, being civil orders that are written with the intention that they'll be broken so that criminal penalties can be applied.

      I remember this government admitting that ASBOs didn't work and promising to do something about them, but nothing seems to have changed.

    • Re:Unenforceable? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @05:21AM (#39162787)

      This is why the ASBO is and has always been a foul addition to British law.

      Someon is doing something not illegal, but deemed anti-social, they can be issued with an anti-social-behaviour-order to constrain their activities. Even if the order tries to stop them doing something completely legal, they can be fined or imprisoned fro breaking it. It's a horrific abuse of the law, I just hope that sooner or later someone takes this through to the ECHR and gets the whole ASBO scheme shut down.

      Someone asked me the other day about why I hated the labour party in the UK. That ASBOs were introduced on their watch is something I forgot at the time, it'll be in there next time someone asks me.

    • There are a hundred and one ways to talk to people in this modern age and many of those are anonymous and not easily tracked or monitored.

      Ah, but the *individuals themselves* are relatively easy to track & monitor. Besides, I'm sure that if the government is willing to inflict such an Orwellian and illogical/impractical punishment in the first place, I'm sure that, if one or more of these people begin using some anonymous communication method, the government would be more than willing to prohibit them from legally engaging in anonymous communication.

      This just seems like one of those sentences which is "harsh" to make a point but doesn't actually make any difference to how these men will communicate. That said, it's also completely ridiculous that these people with no ill intent were made such an example of, and that they were given a punishment which is illogical and far too much trouble than it's worth to enforce.

      No surprise. What else would one expect from an authoritarian police state? That's what th

      • But of course, anyone suggesting smaller government in either nation is painted as a lunatic-fringe extremist that hates the poor, and is probably a racist to boot.

        E.g., "Derp, herp, why dontcha just move to Somalia if you want a libertarian paradise, herp, derp"

        • Nice straw man you've got there.

          There is nothing wrong with a smaller government, the administrative bit of the public sector has been out of control in the western world for years. But we don't have to abolish the government entirely or make it completely bare-bones as libertarians apparently want. What we need are more nurses and teachers, and a lot fewer administrators and bean counters.

          The staunch opposition to hard-line libertarianism concerns the utopia of the all-correcting "free market", which WILL

    • Re:Unenforceable? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Lunar_Lamp ( 976812 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @06:29AM (#39162955) Homepage
      This is not a ruling. A court hasn't applied this ASBO, it's just TFL requesting it.
    • Re:Unenforceable? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cardpuncher ( 713057 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @06:34AM (#39162971)

      It's unenforceable in the sense that most of it would almost certainly (if initially granted) fall foul of the Human Rights Act. It would be entirely disproportionate to stop people communicating with each other.

      I'd imagine TfL would be able to get an ASBO against trespassing on the railway - it's an unbelievably stupid and dangerous thing to do especially in the confined tunnels of the London Underground - but they'd have a hard time making the rest of it stick.

      Why would they even try? Well, I've worked (fortunately briefly) for TfL and I found them a very weird organisation with a very paternalistic attitude to both staff and passengers; I always felt an underlying sense that you might be hauled off to the Gulag if you failed to toe the party line and I'm not really surprised that they have overreacted in such a spectacular fashion.

      Aldwych Station is, ironically, opened up to visitors fairly often so there's no particular difficulty in getting to see it. I went several years back and you can probably gauge some of the internal contradictions at TfL from the fact that we were encouraged to take photographs by the (enthusiastic and knowledgeable) engineer leading the tour but told not to make them publicly available as it would upset the marketing department that makes money out of selling images and result in future tours being cancelled. There has recently been controversy about a ban on DSLRs and Tripods at Aldwych Station ( which again might appear to be as much about preserving TfL's image rights as anything else.

      So although there's a clear public safety issue in the original incident, I think this has much more to do with TfL wanting to let everyone know they're the boss. Which is an odd position for a publicly-owned and funded body to take.

  • ASBOS (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 26, 2012 @04:54AM (#39162701)

    Seriously folks, you have to Google them.
    One basic summary of them is that you can issue an ASBO to stop someone from doing something *that isn't a crime*, if they then break the order, then *that is a crime* and you can arrest and jail them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bongo ( 13261 )

      That's right. The "healthy" side of ASBOs is that there are a lot of things which are bad but not technically illegal. Dropping money in the street is not illegal. Screaming loudly during sex is not illegal. But paedophiles have been known to drop money outside school gates to entice children to pick it up and come over and offer it back. Some woman was screaming loudly during sex repeatedly and ignoring requests from neighbours that she quieten down. So do you let it go on, or do the authorities have so

      • Re:ASBOS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 26, 2012 @06:17AM (#39162921)

        So do you let it go on, or do the authorities have something to do?

        Something that isn't illegal? You let it go on, obviously! Until there is a law that makes these things illegal, free people doing legal things should tell the police to fuck off, and not apologize. If they want to step it up, they should press charges against the police who is trying to interfere with legal activities for arbitrary acts by the authorities. WTF is wrong with people that this even needs explaining?

        • Re:ASBOS (Score:5, Informative)

          by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @06:47AM (#39163013) Homepage Journal

          GP is wrong. Causing a breach of the peace and being a pediodiddlerist are illegal.

          • The "Breach of the Peace" offence is a huge overbear to cover the example given (and its a true example), a court binding the defendent over to not do what they were doing is exactly what is needed - and that is what an ASBO is.

            Similarly, simply dropping money on the ground does not a paedophile make, and its certainly not covered under child protection laws regardless of whether the intention is to attract children or not - there has to be an intention to do something further.

    • by vakuona ( 788200 )

      I understand the intent behind ASBOs. They are supposed to be a halfway house of sorts. And they do have the effect of preventing the criminalisation of behaviour that is antisocial and that can feel threatening to others. A good example is the gang culture. Now, no one wants to criminalise people walking in groups (at least I don't), but gangs (of you people I must add) most certainly walks in groups and do cause a nuisance, engage in threatening behaviour and in some cases commit crimes. ASBOs can specifi

      • Now, no one wants to criminalise people walking in groups (at least I don't), but gangs (of you people I must add) most certainly walks in groups and do cause a nuisance, engage in threatening behaviour and in some cases commit crimes.

        So pass a law against causing a nuisance and engaging in threatening behavior. (I assume "committing crimes" is already against the law in the UK.) Surely you don't want anyone doing those things, whether or not they have an ASBO.

  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @05:00AM (#39162727) Journal
    This is terrible. There are already laws in place to prevent the "anti-social" aspects of what these guys did. They were arrested and charged with these crimes (a caution does count as a conviction). Every urban explorer knows this is a risk.

    ASBOs are meant to deal with anti social behaviour that isn't actually criminal. The only "anti-social" aspect of their behaviour was the illegal part.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 26, 2012 @05:13AM (#39162757)

      You confuse two things here

      a. The publicly stated reason for the introduction of the ASBO, "antisocial control"
      b. The true intended function - a device for making the legal, illegal, and therefore actionable...

      It was never about anything other than giving them a legal device to criminalise non-criminal behaviour, to be used as and when they required. Having it on the statute books for so long unchallenged also gives them a precedent.

  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <> on Sunday February 26, 2012 @05:06AM (#39162745) Homepage

    Their laptops, cameras and hard drives were confiscated.

    What reason not to give them back (other than summary 'punishment' by the police) ? If they did not get them back, they have probably been back to take new photos.

  • Striesand Effect (Score:4, Interesting)

    by djl4570 ( 801529 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @05:14AM (#39162763) Journal
    Streisand Effect.
    It is very disturbing to read that anyone seeking to take pictures of an abandoned or unused subway stations are subject to any sort of "Anti social" order. Taking pictures of a disused public conveyance is hardly "antisocial." Given the violent tendencies of yobs and chavs I've read about elsewhere; law enforcement in this jurisdiction has better things to do with their time.
    BTW Did they ever let Tony Martin out of jail or is he still a danger to burglars?
    • by F69631 ( 2421974 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @06:11AM (#39162899)

      I understand that he had been burgled many times before (losing a total of about 10 000 dollars) and that he had all the right to be frustrated about police inaction... That said, he had no reason to believe he was under any threat when he fired his shotgun at the backs of two people who were trying to flee through the window, killing one and injuring the other. The court thought that he was clearly using inappropriate force and he spent 3 years in jail after which he was let free because he behaved well.

      Call me crazy freedom-hating left-wing nutjob if you want to, but I don't think that anyone has the right to execute people without a trial if it's not in self-defense... especially when it comes to crimes that don't carry a death penalty in the first place.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 26, 2012 @06:46AM (#39163011)

        I'm curious what an "appropriate" force would have been then. Throwing the TV remote at them? Turning around and walking away while saying "shucks, I do hope they really are leaving and aren't just trying to find a way to attack me by surprise"?

        If people broke into my home and I saw them, I would feel threatened until the police captured them. Since the people obviously had no problem breaking into my home once, I would have no reason to believe they wouldn't come back to prevent me from potentially identifying them. Historical precedent had proven that Tony Martin could not count on the police to do anything, so he did the only thing he could do to protect himself.

        Call me a crazy, freedom-loving, right-wing nutjob if you want to, but I just can't feel sorry for someone who's purposefully destroying and stealing other people's property and threatening their safety.

      • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @10:24AM (#39163669)
        The kid who was killed had been 29 times by the time he was killed at the age of 16 and had just been released that day on bail for another burglary. May I suggest that the people responsible for his death were the members of the English judicial system who failed to administer sufficient punishment to him to convince him that committing burglary and assault were a bad idea? What reason did Tony Martin have to believe that they would not return and assault him on another occasion?
  • They slap you with an ASBO?

    It is not illegal to climb, but you might hurt yourself or your friend, and that would be "antisocial".

    And then if you do skateboarding...

    And tattoos and nose piercing...

    We have a room in this insane asylum...

  • (Slightly edited from the original)

    Tommy: Doesn't it make you proud to be English?

    Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: It's SHITE being English! We're the lowest of the low. The scum of the fucking Earth! The most wretched, miserable, servile, pathetic trash that was ever shat into civilization. We're ruled by effete assholes. It's a SHITE state of affairs to be in, Tommy, and ALL the fresh air in the world won't make any fucking difference!

  • OK, uh, that's weird...

    -- Terry

  • check out their site (Score:5, Informative)

    by dr_blurb ( 676176 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @06:00AM (#39162861)

    Check out their site: silentuk [], very cool pictures there.

    Here are the Aldwych station pictures []

  • by Shemmie ( 909181 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @06:03AM (#39162871)

    "The oldest recipient of an order to date is an 87-year-old who among other things is forbidden from being sarcastic to his neighbours (July 2003). He was subsequently found guilty of breaking the terms of his order on three separate occasions. He awaits sentencing but the judge has already made it clear that "there will be no prison for an 88 year old man". (Source—Statewatch ASBOwatch)"

    I know ASBOs are a farce, but jesus, I didn't know how far we had sunk - as a Brit, I'm amazed at this list of more controversial ASBOs - []

  • An apt name: They are ordered to exhibit anti-social behaviour, namely not talking to each other.

  • by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Sunday February 26, 2012 @06:10AM (#39162897) Homepage

    As a kid, what is now called "urban exploration" was a treasured hobby. Living in a big, boring government city, we'd ride our bikes far and wide in search of interesting areas and abandoned buildings. And by "we", I mean about half the kids my age. We'd venture out in groups, anywhere from two to ten of us, exploring all sorts of out-of-view places like unmanned water supply hubs, underground walkways, decommissioned train stations and the abandoned warehouses. The worst thing we ever encountered were a pair of crackheads who threatened to steal our bikes. So they got their asses beat by a pack of little kids with rocks and sticks :)

    At no point in any of this did we feel like we were harming persons or property. We didn't even tag stuff, we just wanted to admire cool spots and all the kitschy 60's and 70's crap that has been left behind. To criminalize such acts of natural curiosity seems patently ridiculous to me. That said, it's not kosher to sneak around an active subway system past security lines, but I'd like to suggest an alternative solution: official tours of the abandoned subway stations! People like to see those out-of-the-way areas, so why not charge them a couple bucks and have guide safely lead would-be explorers in a perfectly legal manner. Sure, for some it takes away the thrill of sneaking around, but at least for myself, the goal was never to break laws, it was merely satisfying my curiosity.

    As an aside, my high school was situated in a 150 year old castle, erected by one of the region's pioneers and eventually donated to the church, who repurposed it as an agricultural college in the early 20th century. Like many buildings of the era, it had vast underground catacombs and passageways connecting the various buildings, as well as upper levels that formerly housed residents, staff, and clergymen. They even had their own barber shop up there! We had an underground tunnel lined with lockers, something many of us considered a privilege as it conferred some peace and privacy. Most of these areas were not used during my time, but we were invited to explore, with guided tours arranged at least a few times a year. If you knew the routes, you could get to any building without stepping outside, a welcome luxury on rainy days or in -40'C winter storms. And if the indoors weren't your thing, there was a 30 acre forest island with beaches, rapids, a large rock formation, abandoned booths and small cabins from sporting events dating back 50-60 years, and all sorts of places to climb. Snooping around is what we did for fun, and it was encouraged!

    It sure beats what today's kids do: sit around, baked out of their minds as they escape the mindlessness of our scared society.

    • by Some Bitch ( 645438 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @07:56AM (#39163191)

      150 year old castle

      This is probably very British of me but my immediate internal response to this was "150 year old castles? Leeds has a shopping centre that's over 100 years old!"

      I did quite like your post though :)

      • This is probably very British of me but my immediate internal response to this was "150 year old castles? Leeds has a shopping centre that's over 100 years old!"

        The difference between America and England is, the Americans think 100 years is a long time and the English think 100 miles (160.93 Km) is a long distance.
        Not sure who originally said it but it seemed relevent.

  • by jools33 ( 252092 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @06:12AM (#39162907)

    As a keen photographer myself - to me these disused areas of the city are areas of public interest - particularly the old closed down underground stations. Rather than slapping down ASBOs on people - London Transport should wake up to the potential of their sites - and turn them into museums or at least offer guided tours of these sites - open them up to the curious public to view the sites in a safe manner - and let photographers take the pictures they want to take. Just stop treating photographers as potential terrorist - because that is the last thing we are!

  • Is it even legal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @06:14AM (#39162917)

    I know that the British legal system is somewhat different than the continental one, but I thought that getting punished twice for the same crime was forbidden everywhere in the civilised world. After they got a caution for what they did, on what grounds can they be punished again for it?

  • From what I read in TFA the ASBOs have been applied for but not (yet) granted. Think we have to wait and see what the UK legal system says about this before we can comment intelligently.

    • IANAL but I strongly suspect that the ECHR would completely strike out non-association. It is clearly a human rights violation. Unfortunately our pathetic right-wing Murdoch/Rothermere Press is totally uninterested in civil liberties - except of course their right to hack computers, listen in on voicemail, threaten vulnerable people (Charlotte Church case) and misrepresent the EU.
  • Presumably they stumbled across the assembly facility for the secret robot army the UK is going to use reconquer the dissident colonies.

  • If any of the urbexers are reading this, here's how you can re-establish contact with your friends anonymously:

    1. Set up a Tor node and torchat on your home computer.

    2. Create instructions for your friends on how to set up a Tor node and torchat, and through Tor with a locked-down browser, put it online. Putting it on your own .onion hosting and using a tor2web URL would be best so that you can take it down later, but Pastebin could do if you're not that good with computers. If you use Pastebin be sure to include your Tor hidden service name (chat username).

    3. Now all you have to do is get this document to your friends. At a time when you are normally sleeping, leave the house wearing a hoodie and gloves (through an exit where CCTVs can't see you, don't make it possible to pin down where you came from), leave your cell phone at home and turned on. Do not take your car. You can take public transportation if you pay with cash. Use a pay phone as far as convenient from your house to call your friends. Mask your voice and don't give names. Just tell them to write down a website and visit it. Leave a voicemail if they aren't there or hang up on you thinking it's a prank.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"