Overhaul of ineffective ASBOs is much needed

THE Government has indicated that anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) may be scrapped, with Home Secretary Theresa May declaring it is “time to move beyond” the last government’s “gimmick-laden” approach to fighting anti-social behaviour.

Ministry of Justice figures show that 55 per cent of the almost 17,000 ASBOs issued in England and Wales between June 2000 and December 2008 were breached.

ASBOs were introduced by Labour in the late 1990s to deal with persistent minor offenders, but these figures are damning evidence of a system which does not work.

Anti-social behaviour seems to have become an accepted part of life, but it wrecks people’s lives and destroys communities and should not be tolerated.

ASBOs have become ineffective as a deterrent.


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Firstly, they have become something of a badge of honour; something for offenders to boast about to other yobs.

Secondly, ASBOs often ban people from a local area, causing an offender to hang out in a different part of town, simply shifting the problem of anti-social behaviour somewhere else.

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Thirdly, ASBOs label individuals as criminals, and emphasis does not appear to be on offering support to help individuals to change their behaviour.

Mrs May is right in wanting to head towards punishments which are restorative and involve rehabilitation.

Allowing an offender to escape a criminal or civil penalty by fixing the damage they have caused – cleaning graffiti off a wall, for instance – is far more positive, pro-active and productive than simply issuing an ASBO.

People who commit anti-social behaviour often have troubled backgrounds, so the Government would do well to concentrate their resources on finding the root cause of an individual’s problem, if they are to establish a permanent fix.

I believe a stable home and good family values are effective antidotes to anti-social behaviour, so Government emphasis on encouraging such behaviour would be helpful.

Also, what I have never understood about ASBOs is that they prohibit people from behaviour which is in any case against the law.

For instance, a 15-year-old from Comet country was given an ASBO which prohibits him from attempting to buy a drink from licensed premises, while a man from the area has been prohibited from urinating in public, and a woman from offering personal services of a sexual nature in exchange for money to drivers or passengers of any motor vehicle being used on any road.

To my mind, ASBOs are unsuccessful and a waste of time and money.

A complete overhaul of the system is needed, and I am cautiously optimistic that this Government is capable of doing this to positive effect.

The reason for my optimism is due to the fact that there has been an undeniable display of joined up thinking from the powers that be on this matter.

Mrs May’s announcement about ASBOs came after the Government unveiled plans to overhaul licensing laws – with retailers selling alcohol to children receiving tougher penalties, for instance.

With anti-social behaviour often linked to alcohol misuse, this move can only help in tackling the problem.

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