02/11/2006

Asbos seen as 'badges of honour'

Anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) are becoming regarded as 'badges of honour' by many teenagers, according to a survey.

The Youth Justice Board said that overuse of the orders was leading to doubts about their effectiveness as well as making teenagers regard them as glamourous.

The year-long survey studied the number of Asbos given to young people in 10 unnamed areas of England and Wales between January 2004 and January 2005.

It found that, of 137 people, 67 had breached their order at least once.

The YJB said that many young people did not understand the restrictions placed on them, which increased the likelihood of orders being breached.

YJB Chairman Professor Rod Morgan said: "The YJB is not against Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. They can - and do - work incredibly well. But for Asbos to successfully reduce the likelihood of future anti-social behaviour, they need to be used correctly. That means exhausting every preventative measure in the community first, and ensuring that youth offending teams are not excluded from the Asbo process. Without YOT involvement, youngsters and their parents lack the support, advice and knowledge they need to ensure that they comply with their Asbos.

"The public must be protected from neighbourhood nuisance. But for that to happen, Asbos must be used correctly. Our guidance has already had a major impact on the way Asbos are used, but we are concern that it is not used as widely as it should be. We are calling on the sentencers and the police to make sure that Asbos are always used as a last resort."

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said that the report highlighted the government's "total failure to tackle crime". He said: "The Asbo system was set up as a headline-catching gimmick. The latest findings show that young offenders have no respect for Asbos and can breach them without any real threat of serious sanction."

Liberal Democrats home affairs spokesperson Nick Clegg said: "This report makes it clear that Tony Blair's twin-track approach of demonising young people and carpeting the country with Asbos has reached its limit.

"Asbos cannot be effective if they are merely seen as a badge of honour.

"All the available evidence shows we need to engage, not shut out, young people who behave badly if we want to prevent them from becoming the hardened criminals of the future."

(KMcA)


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