Legal wrangles over Asbos for children continue

The government has agreed to continue to review the impact on
under-18s of the two-year minimum period for all antisocial
behaviour orders.

In a report on antisocial behaviour published in April, MPs
charged with scrutinising Home Office policy recommended an
amendment to antisocial behaviour laws to allow magistrates greater
discretion over setting the duration of Asbos in cases of children
under the age of 18.

In its response this week, the government insisted the two-year
minimum period was to “give communities a decent period of
respite from often longstanding antisocial behaviour”.

However it acknowledged the MPs’ concerns, which are also
shared by youth offending team managers and many children’s
charities, adding: “We do understand the concerns about the
minimum period of Asbos, particularly in respect of young people,
and will continue to monitor the position.”

The government’s response came as the use of Asbos against
children came under fire from the European Commissioner for Human

Alvaro Gil-Robles said there had been a “burst of Asbo mania” in
the UK, and that the risk of alienating and stigmatising children
who were made the subject of orders was an area of
“particular concern”.

He said Asbos significantly undermined reforms to the youth
justice system and represented a “curious
contradiction” in the government’s policy in this

An “excessive use” of Asbos was likely to exacerbate
rather than prevent antisocial behaviour, the commissioner added,
calling for a change in legislation so that under-16s found to be
in breach of an Asbo cannot be sentenced to custody.

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