ASBOs may lead to a longer criminal career

By staff writers
September 10, 2007

The Howard League for Penal Reform has today (Monday) published a book that examines the anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) and suggest it is failing to prevent further crime and anti-social behaviour among offenders.

ASBOs were introduced in the 1997 Crime and Disorder Bill.

The anti-social behaviour order is a flagship policy of the government’s Respect agenda. In The ASBO: Wrong Turning, Dead End Chief Superintendent Neil Wain, of Greater Manchester Police, questions the success of ASBOs in preventing further crime and anti-social behaviour.

In the book, he argues that ASBOs fail to prevent further crime and anti-social behaviour among offenders. He also suggests that leaflets naming and shaming those who receive ASBOs could endanger vulnerable children by publishing their contact details, while also risking vigilante attacks, cases of mistaken identity and turning offenders into the 'resident scapegoat'.

It is even suggestes that many ASBO conditions actually encourage crime by preventing offenders from getting help from their families or going to work in a normal day job

Offenders receiving ASBOs are given little or no support to get back on the straight and narrow says Chief Supt Wain.

“Tackling anti-social behaviour is very complex and this book examines whether ASBOs have been effective or not" Wain says.

“As a serving police officer I have experience of the use of these orders and over time I have become concerned about their increased use, their long-term effects and the conditions are imposed under them.

“In the book I have been critical of those cases where the legislation has been abused and the orders have not been used effectively.

“I have also explored what the possible long-term effects of these orders could be and whether they are in fact criminalising people.

“One of my concerns is the possibility that ASBOs may lead to a longer criminal career.”

Individuals who have received ASBOs were interviewed for the book, including a 20 year-old who was jailed for visiting his sick mother and another 20 year-old who found it hard to get work because he was barred from the town centre. One 50 year-old woman who received an ASBO describes how her children were bullied because of official leaflets about her posted around the neighbourhood.

Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Frances Crook, said: “We have very real concerns that the ASBO has been over-used and that it is criminalising people for offences that many would not recognize as ‘crimes’.

“Many individuals receiving orders, particularly children, are confused by the variety of conditions that can be attached to an ASBO. These can cover anything from avoiding groups of three or more people to saying certain words in public. As a result, breaches are common and many end up in prison, where the chances of reoffending on release increase dramatically.

“This book, the second in our series of monographs on topical issues, is a valuable contribution to the debate surrounding how best to tackle anti-social behaviour. We hope that as many people as possible, and in particular our politicians, read it carefully.”

Back on planet Earth, a study last year by the Youth Justice Board found that ASBOs are viewed as a badge of honour by many inner-city teenagers.

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