Charities concerned with rising use of antisocial behaviour orders

    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
    said.

    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.

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