17 Oct 2008

Use alternative ways to address anti social behaviour

NORTHERN Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, today said better ways had to be found to address anti social behaviour than ASBOs.

The Commissioner, speaking on the day the Criminal Justice Inspectorate published its report on Anti Social Behaviour Orders, said it showed that alternatives to ASBOs were available and could work better.

“I utterly condemn anti social behaviour,” said Ms Lewsley. “But anti social behaviour orders are not the way to address this.

“I objected to their introduction, and believe they do not solve the problem. Young people have also told me directly of their opposition to ASBOS.

“I am particularly concerned that ASBOs are just about controlling behaviour and that there is nothing in them to help a young person or adult look at why they should change their behaviour or what harm this is causing others.

“There is no evidence here on what the consequences are on individuals or communities. In fact this report shows that alternatives such as acceptable behaviour contracts work as well, if not better, than ASBOs.”

The Commissioner said the fact that almost half of all ASBOs had been against under18s was worrying.

“It is clear to me that young people are being over-represented,” she said. “They are as likely to be victims of anti social behaviour as adults and need to be protected.

“The report says that on one hand that ASBOs have been used in what it calls a measured way, but it also points out the absurdities such as a young person only being allowed to walk down one side of the street.

“Equally communities need to work to address the conditions and circumstances that lead to anti social behaviour.”

Ms Lewsley said the recent Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the use of ASBOs and called for a UK-wide independent review of their use, with a view to ending their use with children and young people.

The Commissioner welcomed the Criminal Justice Inspectorate report as important to contributing to the ongoing debate, but said that, as noted in the report, more work needs to be done.