POLICE enforcement of Anti Social Behaviour Orders is being let down by magistrates in Northern Ireland, a senior officer claimed yesterday.
Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland revealed his frustrations with the judicial system over the treatment of a youth who repeatedly breached his escaped detention.
He warned that the orders, which can ban louts, street drinkers and other menaces from certain areas, could become "a joke".
With 14 ASBOs imposed and another 98 orders in the pipeline across the Urban Region which he commands, the police chief urged the courts to get tough.
He said: "The magistrates need to be aware of the effect these people are having in the community. We need everybody to support the police.
"We are being let down, on some occasions by the magistrates, particularly in the enforcement and interpretation of this piece of legislation. We need back up from the courts in relation to enforcement. If not, they become a joke."
Mr McCausland hit out after Newtownabbey Magistrates Court last week recommended a juvenile who twice breached his ASBO should attend a youth conference.
"A young lad twice breaches his ASBO and the magistrate decided he should attend a youth conference. What penalty is that?" he asked
"He should have been dealt with in a far more harsh way. He could have been sent to a youth detention centre.
"I'm concerned that the courts are not considering breaches of ASBOs as seriously as they should.
"I have other examples where magistrates declined to issue ASBOs against prolific offenders, or in positions where there is clear evidence that all our partners, the councils, Housing Executive and ourselves, have gone to strenuous lengths to gather these up.
"It's an awful lot of time and effort to try and protect the community from people who are determined to be involved in anti-social behaviour."