Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Ulster Asbos fall to all-time low

Asbos have reached an all time low in Northern Ireland, figures show

The number of Asbos granted in Northern Ireland reached an all-time low last year, criminal justice inspectors have revealed.

Six were allowed to police tackling persistent bad behaviour. Changes to PSNI structures, leaving most districts without dedicated anti-social behaviour officers, and a lack of training was blamed by police for the declining usage, according to Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland.

Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos) are court orders which can ban a person from threatening, intimidating or disruptive actions, spending time with a particular group of friends or visiting certain areas.

The inspectorate said it was a cross-cutting issue requiring significant partnership between different agencies like police and district councils to prevent the problem, intervening and enforcing where necessary.

The inspectorate's report said: "Inspectors believe that Asbos should not stand in isolation as a punitive tool, but should incorporate a package of support to assist young people to change their behaviour.

"In addition, given the lengthy nature of an Asbo in the short life of a young person, there should be an opportunity for young people to have the order reviewed every six months so that the Asbo can be amended or quashed, if they have demonstrated behavioural change."

The number granted since 2005 declined from 32 (22% of the overall total of Asbos from 2005 to 2011) in 2006 to six last year (4%). On average 40% of Asbos were allowed against those aged under 18. Concern was raised about potential discrimination against young people, according to the report.

Police told inspectors Asbos were a useful tool, the final stage in a graduated response, where other methods had failed. The report said it was believed a larger number of warning letters and acceptable behaviour contracts were being used.

Officers told inspectors responsibility for applying for Asbos had been diluted between a greater number of individuals who did not have the same level of knowledge about the processes as dedicated officers. It was suggested there was no training available about the process and information in the PSNI intranet.

The report said: "This lack of awareness therefore potentially led to them being under-utilised."

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