News Archive

Anti-social Action

by msecadm4921

Labour are majoring on crime and anti-social behaviour – but their proposals have been criticised by the Conservatives and Nacro, the crime reduction charity.

Louise Casey will head a new anti-social behaviour unit inside the Home Office. Home Secretary David Blunkett said: ‘The unit will be a centre of excellence on anti-social behaviour, with experts from across Government and local agencies. It will work on the new measures needed to develop further the successful changes we have already introduced.’ Visit www.homeoffice.gov.uk She is currently Director of the Homelessness Directorate at the Office for the Deputy Prime Minister. In the Queen’s Speech on November 12, laying out the Government’s business for the next parliamentary year, fighting crime was to the fore. Of five related Bills, one on anti-social behaviour will be published next year, the Home Office says. The unit is a sign that Labour, from Prime Minister Tony Blair down, sees tackling anti-social behaviour and low-level crime as acting on doorstep concerns – namely voters’ fears of crime.
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What Tories say
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Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin MP, said: ‘Whilst we welcome moves to make our criminal justice system more effective, we have fundamental concerns about proposals on trial by jury, double jeopardy and the provision of information about previous convictions. Furthermore, this Government’s record on crime and anti-social behaviour makes it difficult to see these Bills as much more than an empty gesture. We have had 12 Criminal Justice Acts since 1997 and still we have a criminal justice system in a state of disarray, 5 crimes committed a second, only a 2.5 per cent rate of conviction and less than 200 ASBOs issued in the last year, rather than the 5000 the Government promised.’
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How Labour see it
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In a speech to the Youth Justice Board Annual Convention at Westminster in mid-November, Mr Blunkett called on everyone involved in a child’s development – from parents, teachers and the community to youth justice agencies and the criminal justice system as a whole – to prevent anti-social behaviour and early signs of criminality. He said: ‘In our first term in Government we laid down the foundations to deal with the problem, using the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to provide a wide range of tools to deal with problems in communities.
"Measures such as Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, Youth Inclusion Programmes, Parenting Orders, Final Warnings, Reparation Orders, Detention & Training Orders and Youth Offending Teams have made a real difference. Police numbers are also at record levels and following an extensive police reform programme Community Support Officers are also on the streets helping the police. However, although recorded crime is down by 22 per cent since 1997, this means nothing if it is not felt on the ground. Our task in the second term is to make these initiatives work properly and to provide communities with the confidence to tackle their problems, providing a broader range of measures to take on anti-social behaviour still further. Success depends on delivery on the ground, it is vital therefore that we work together to deal with this behaviour early to build safe and strong communities who want to be part of the solution."
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Young offenders
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"Let us be clear about the problem we are facing. We know that nearly three quarters of street crime offenders are under 17 and a hard core five per cent of juveniles are responsible for 60 per cent of offences for their age group. Tackling the root causes of offending means we all have to look wider than just at criminal justice measures, important though they are. This is about balancing the rights and responsibilities of individuals and needs the co-operation of the whole community. Anti-social behaviour can be the start of a criminal career for some young people. Yesterday the Queen&rsquos speech outlined a package of measures to overhaul the criminal justice system and tackle anti-social behaviour by dealing head on with the disrespect that stokes the fear of crime. We will provide local agencies with the powers and the tools to quickly combat low-level crime and disorder by young people that impairs quality of life for many in our most deprived communities … We need to look at taking young offenders out of the situation that led them to offend in the first place, giving them a stable environment. We are looking at intensive fostering schemes, where young offenders are placed with specially trained and supported foster parents, but at the same time can keep in touch with family, friends and school."
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ASBOs urged
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Meanwhile Home Office Minister John Denham has urged all local agencies to maximise the use of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders to crackdown on anti-social behaviour. Addressing the Home Office conference "Anti-Social Behaviour – Meeting the Challenge", Mr Denham unveiled new joint guidance for Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) and Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (ABCs) – which he called powerful tools that have been radically overhauled to be more efficient and more effective. ASBOs can prohibit offenders (aged 10 or over) from certain acts or entering a specific area.More than 650 have been granted since April 1999. A number of key changes to ASBOs were included in the Police Reform Act 2002, which come into force on December 2: agencies can now apply for an Interim ASBO to stop anti-social behaviour earlier and help protect witnesses; registered social landlords and the British Transport Police can now apply directly for ASBOs; an ASBO can now cover a wider area, up to the whole of England and Wales if necessary, to address the problem of people moving and continuing their anti-social behaviour in other areas; criminal courts can now issue an order against a person who has been convicted of a criminal offence removing the need for a separate legal process.<br>
And from 1 April 2003: and county courts can issue ASBOs in particular circumstances, also removing the need for a separate legal process.
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About ABCs
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Acceptable Behaviour Contracts are voluntary agreements where people involved in anti-social behaviour agree with local agencies to stop offending behaviour. The Home Office has published the first joint guidance for Acceptable Behaviour Contracts and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. This includes examples of best practice. These tools were introduced in the first phase of the Government’s drive against anti-social behaviour. In the second phase, the Government says it will shortly be announcing a new package of measures as part of a strategy to combat the full range of anti-social behaviour that affects the quality of life for many. Welcoming the publication of the new Guidance, Lord Warner, Youth Justice Board Chairman said: "Young people involved in anti-social behaviour must be dealt with in a way that ensures they fully appreciate the consequences of their actions on the community. The new Guidance for Anti-Social Behaviour Orders and Acceptable Behaviour Contracts should help local authorities deal with this group of young people effectively and reinforce the message to local communities that anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated.Professionals must take up the opportunities offered within ASBOs and ABCs to reinforce parental responsibility and help young people break links with the negative influences of their peers so they start to change their behaviour for the better."
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What Nacro say
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However, a review of research by crime reduction charity Nacro into the effectiveness of anti-social behaviour measures suggests a failure of policy in laws intended to address the problem. According to Nacro, the anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) is cumbersome, costly and difficult to enforce. The review, called ‘Tackling anti-social behaviour: what really works?, found that the average ASBO costs more than £5,000 to enforce and takes more than three months to obtain. More than one third of all ASBOs were breached within the first nine months of issue. Nacro suggest combining enforcement with preventative initiatives tailored to local conditions.
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What’s good
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Good practice, the charity says, includes the use of acceptable behaviour contracts (ABCs) more recently promoted by the Government, and parental control agreements, plus youth schemes providing youngsters with activities and mentoring. The report also argues that because there is no clear definition of what constitutes anti-social behaviour, confusion among local authorities over how to identify and respond to the problem is rife. What might be seen as anti-social behaviour in one setting might be regarded quite differently elsewhere. Rachel Armitage of Nacro’s Crime and Social Policy Section said,
‘The Government has identified addressing anti-social behaviour as a priority in the fight against crime. Part of the problem is that while anti-social behaviour is undesirable and unpleasant, it is not always criminal. ASBOs can work, but they undoubtedly work better if they take into account local circumstances. ASBO’s can only ever prohibit behaviour. We must also realise that there are pro-active ways for communities to prevent it from arising in the first place.’

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