THE use of anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) has doubled during the past year - and they are being used to deal with more than the hooliganism and vandalism they were designed to tackle.
Prostitutes, drug dealers, aggressive beggars, flyposters, animal rights extremists and even shepherds have been made the subject of Asbos or been threatened with them.
Since they were introduced in 1999, 2,400 Asbos have been issued across England and Wales. Last year 1,323 were taken out.
Anyone breaking an Asbo - a civil order which requires a lower standard of proof than that needed in criminal cases - can be jailed for up to five years.
They are designed to tackle the low-level crime that brings misery to thousands of law-abiding people and can be issued to protect the public from behaviour that causes harassment, alarm and distress, where criminal proceedings are not seen as appropriate.
Many are granted against troublesome youths and in a typical case in July, 11 teenagers from the village of Yarnfield in Staffordshire, were made the subject of Asbos.
The case against eight boys and three girls aged 13 to 17, thought to be the largest ever single application for Asbos, was brought after residents complained of a catalogue of abuse, damage and unacceptable behaviour.
A 10-year-old boy who terrorised and intimidated people in a city park was given a three-year Asbo.
Bath magistrates heard that the boy had been involved in a total of 32 incidents in three months, including threats against tourists and young children and verbal abuse.
He was accused of spinning toddlers on a ride until one fell off, throwing stones and metal spikes at people and killing a duck.
Another 10-year-old boy was banned from having matches or a lighter until his 16th birthday after he caused almost £80,000 of damage in two arson attacks.
And a noisy neighbour was banned from owning a stereo or a television after playing music so loud that furniture in neighbouring flats was moved by the vibrations.
Mother-of-three and Eminem fan Sharon McLoughlin, 33, was given a two-year Asbo and evicted from her Birmingham council flat.
Critics have said it is not yet clear whether Asbos clean up problems or simply move them on.
However, figures from the most recent British Crime Survey showed that fear of yobs is down, with only 16% of the public saying there was a lot of anti-social behaviour locally, down from 21% a year ago.
As well as tackling loutish behaviour, Asbos have been used in more creative ways, with prostitutes banned from certain areas to prevent them plying their trade and beggars banished from their haunts.
Camden Council in north London have threatened to use the orders against flyposting companies and the record giants who use them, in a bid to limit the £250,000 a year they say it costs to remove the posters.
In another case, a 53-year-old man was banned from entering or telephoning every NHS building in the country without a lawful reason or written permission.
He had repeatedly harassed staff in York as he sought to satisfy his fetish for surgical masks.
Animal rights activist Kate Jones was banned from contacting the owners, shareholders and employees of any firm connected with Huntingdon Life Sciences, the animal-testing company, and Yamanouchi, the pharmaceutical firm, after admitting aggravated trespass.
Elsewhere, a man was banned from buying or consuming alcohol anywhere in England and Wales after a series of assaults in Cheltenham.
Mark Whittaker, 47, breached the order and was jailed for eight months.
Asbos have even been threatened against shepherds.
After complaints from residents, livestock owners in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, were told they could be made subject to orders banning them from land and imposing a curfew if they failed to keep their animals in order.