Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Use of Asbos set to be reviewed

Justice Minister David Ford is to review the use of Asbos

The use of anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) is to be reviewed, the Justice Department has said.

Minister David Ford launched a wider consultation on reducing crime and improving community safety.

The cost of Asbos has been criticised in Great Britain but there were only 122 cases taken in five years by local councils in Northern Ireland. Campaigners are concerned the measures criminalise young people.

Mr Ford said: "Asbos have a role to play but do not provide the full answer. Our use of Asbos in Northern Ireland over the years has been measured and proportionate, and it is important that each case is considered carefully on its own merits. I am however also aware of the ongoing debate about their use and will as part of the consultation on this strategy, consider how we address anti-social behaviour and the use of Asbos in Northern Ireland."

The consultation Building Safer, Shared and Confident Communities, sets out proposals for a new community safety strategy for Northern Ireland including going beyond preventing crime and anti-social behaviour to tackling the root causes that can lead to offending like poor health, education, inequality and social disadvantage.

Asbos were introduced in Northern Ireland in 2004. They are civil orders granted by a court to protect members of the public from anti-social behaviour. They last for at least two years and can ban the individual from repeating the offending behaviour or entering a certain area. A total of 122 were taken from 2005 to 2009. A 2008 Criminal Justice Inspectorate report found they were a useful tool, generally as a last resort.

Last July, Home Secretary Theresa May announced a review of powers to tackle anti-social behaviour in England and Wales but that did not extend to Northern Ireland. The new consultation is intended to consider proposals suited to the needs of local communities, as well as the powers available.

Mr Ford added: "Anti-social behaviour has a real impact on communities, and on people's quality of life. I am determined to build on the excellent partnership work by agencies in addressing anti-social behaviour and tackling its root causes.

"I truly believe that shared communities are safer communities and that by confronting sectarianism and other forms of hate crime and prejudice, Northern Ireland will be a brighter, safer, more prosperous society," he said.

Commissioner for Children and Young People Patricia Lewsley said she utterly condemned anti-social behaviour. "But anti-social behaviour orders are not the way to address this," she added. "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."

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