The children’s commissioner has joined children’s charities in raising concerns over reports that the government is planning to extend the use of antisocial behaviour orders to under-10s.
Al Aynsley-Green said that, while he wasn’t against the Asbo policy per se, he was concerned whether some orders were “appropriate, sensible, proportionate and just”.
Downing Street has refused to confirm reports that proposals to extend the orders will be contained in a “Respect” bill to be introduced in Parliament before Christmas. A Downing Street spokesperson said that the so-called “Baby Asbo” was not a recognised policy, and that speculation as to the content of the bill was unhelpful.
But the commissioner warned that the orders currently being issued to children were not always suitable, particularly when young people had mental health problems.
Describing the reports as a “worrying development”, Aynsley-Green called for an inquiry into the current use of Asbos before any extension was considered.
The Howard League for Penal Reform also criticised the reported “Baby Asbo” proposals. Director Frances Crook called the idea “grotesque” and warned that legal disputes could arise if a child were to breach the order, as any child under 10 could not currently be imprisoned and to do so would require further changes in the law.
She questioned the sense of extending a “fundamentally flawed” policy that failed to acknowledge that the young people it targeted desperately needed more support.