New justice bill targets parents but ignores youth justice reforms

Local authorities and registered social landlords came a step closer to having new powers to tackle antisocial behaviour today with the publication of the Police and Justice Bill.

The bill proposes amending antisocial behaviour laws so that councils and social landlords – or those authorised to act on their behalf – can apply to a magistrates’ court for a parenting order against a parent whose child has been involved in antisocial behaviour.

It would also allow councils and social landlords to enter into parenting contracts with the parents of children who are either engaged in antisocial behaviour or at risk of becoming engaged, in order to try and prevent this behaviour continuing or starting.

There would be a 12-month upper time limit on any parenting order, involving up to three months on a counselling or guidance programme. Contracts could last for any amount of time, but the council must agree to support parents to help them comply with a contract’s requirements.

New powers for community support officers to remove children thought to be playing truant from specified areas and return them to school are also included in the bill in a bid to tackle truancy.

However, the bill fails to take forward any of the changes to the youth justice system developed by the government since the Youth Justice: the Next Steps consultation, which was launched in 2003 alongside the Every Child Matters green paper.

The consultation proposed a range of reforms including a greater use of community intensive supervision and surveillance, a simpler sentencing structure with more flexible interventions, and a more graduated progression between secure, open and community facilities.

The Youth Justice Board issued a statement stressing the government’s commitment to introducing a youth justice bill to take forward such reforms “as soon as there is further parliamentary time available”.

Police and Justice Bill from

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