May’s ASBO changes raise opposition
A Government plan to replace the ASBO scheme with a “community trigger” has sparked grass-roots opposition from leading pressure groups.
Theresa May’s new legislation aims to give local communities and individuals the power to stop repeat offenders by applying for the new antisocial behaviour orders themselves, removing some police responsibility for the claims. Under the new measures, any incident reported by five people or complained about three times by one person, will immediately merit a police investigation. The change of emphasis will replace 19 different scenarios with six powers to limit people’s access to certain places and control their behaviour.
The Home Secretary said the measures “will give people the confidence that when they call the police something will be done want to see the police dealing with antisocial behaviour when it happens and when people are reporting it,” she added.
But Enver Solomon, of the Children’s Society and chairperson of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, said: “There is no doubt that sometimes difficult behaviour, particularly by teenagers, remains an issue of great concern in many neighbourhoods. But youth engagement programmes, community mediation and interventions that address the whole family rather than just the child are far more effective than rushing to rely on court orders.”
“At a time when the numbers of children entering the youth justice system and going into custody is falling, and so saving large sums of money for the taxpayer, the last thing that is needed is to propel more children through the courts. Not only would this cost the taxpayer large sums of money, we already know that prisons have a poor record of reducing re-offending and antisocial behaviour.”
The Criminal Justice Alliance was also critical of the move, claiming that youth clubs, family support and health services were more important to halt antisocial behaviour than more repression. “There is a real risk that these new orders will result in more and more people being sent to prison for breaching their order when the original offence would not have warranted custody. Our prisons are already severely overcrowded, and we know that warehousing people who often have social or health needs can make them more not less likely to reoffend,” said CJA director Vicki Helyar-Cardwell. “Loss of employment and accommodation and separation from family can exacerbate the underlying causes of antisocial behaviour.”
Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: “The government is weakening, not strengthening, important antisocial behaviour powers. Alongside cutting 16,000 police officers including frontline neighbourhood police and PCSOs, this will make it harder to deal with serious problems in local communities,” she said. “The government’s new measures are a weaker rebrand, making it harder for the police, councils and housing associations to take tough enforcement action when people’s lives are made a misery by antisocial bullies or nuisance neighbours.”
“It should not take three separate complaints, or five different households complaining, before getting a response. All complaints should be dealt with, and quickly — no one wants to wait for the government’s slow trigger.”
“Breaching antisocial behaviour orders will no longer be a criminal offence. And housing associations have warned that rebranding injunctions will make it harder to deal with neighbours from hell because it rips up years of case law and experience.”
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