Fears have been raised this week over the Home Office’s boast
that the number of Antisocial Behaviour Orders issued to tackle
“yob behaviour” has more than doubled since March last
year, writes Clare Jerrom.
Home Office figures show that more than 2,400 Asbos have been
issued across England and Wales since they were introduced in 1999.
There have been 422 issued in Greater Manchester alone since 1999
– a figure up 232 per cent since March last year. In Leeds,
where 66 Asbos were issued to young people in the “Little
London” area of the city, there has been an increase of 430
per cent since March 2003.
But Pauline Batstone, chair of the Association of Youth Offending
Team Managers, said she was “deeply concerned” at the
knock-on effect on the numbers of young people going into custody.
“In Bournemouth and Poole in the first quarter of this year,
custody figures were doubled as a direct result of Asbo
breaches,” Batstone said.
She said that the breaches were not always from further antisocial
behaviour or criminal acts, but from prohibitions on who young
people could associate with and where they could go. “Young
people are going into custody and being labelled ‘persistent
young offenders’ without ever being convicted of a criminal
act outside of the antisocial behaviour arena,” she
Rod Morgan, chair of the Youth Justice Board, highlighted earlier
this year that the numbers of children in custody had risen since
Christmas (news, page 16, 29 April) as a result of children being
detained for breaching orders, including Asbos.
The Home Office has also launched academy action days as part of
its Together campaign to combat antisocial behaviour. Practitioners
will visit local agencies and teach them how to use the Antisocial
Behaviour Act, obtain Asbos and share information.
Howard League for Penal Reform director Frances Crook said she
deplored the use of “storm troopers” to encourage the
take-up of Asbos, which would ultimately lead to a rise in numbers
of children in custody.