Asbos not working campaign warns as incidents increase
The rising number of cases of anti-social behaviour in Northern Ireland has shown a high-profile bid to combat it was ineffective, campaigners said.
The tally of nuisance incidents has hit its highest level for five years but Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos) were taken out just twice in 2015/16.
The restrictive court orders obtained by local authorities were introduced under Tony Blair's Labour government to "ensure that communities do not have to live with unacceptable levels of fear and intimidation".
The Justice Department at Stormont is considering their future as part of a review aimed at addressing problem behaviour which can include anything from noise to drunkenness and vandalism.
The Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (Niacro) charity said: "On reflection, it would appear that Asbos merely reinforced people's anxieties and stigmatised them further."
In 2017/18, the number of anti-social behaviour incidents was 61,207.
This continues the increase in the level of anti-social behaviour incidents that was seen during 2016/17 and is the highest level seen over the last five years. Niacro expressed concerns around the introduction of the orders in 2005, and said there was little or no evidence to suggest they would change behaviour.
It added: "We know that in 2015/16 there were 59,502 anti-social behaviour incidents recorded by the PSNI.
"In the same year, only two Asbos were handed out, which would support the view that Asbos are ineffective in tackling anti-social behaviour.
"Support and reinforcement of positive behaviour including mentoring, diversionary projects, restorative justice approaches, and working with families have a track record of success, Asbos do not."
A consultation by the DoJ on the issue closed recently.
It considered alternatives used elsewhere in the UK including Criminal Behaviour Orders, which could replace Asbos on conviction. They aim to tackle underlying causes of the offender's anti-social behaviour.
Public Space Protection Orders place restrictions on those using the space, such as surrounding the consumption of alcohol. A closure power is "fast and flexible" and designed to allow the police or council to quickly close premises being used to cause disorder or nuisance, the consultation document said.
In Scotland, any person who plays any musical instrument, sings or performs, or operates any radio or television, or other sound producing device so as to give another person reasonable cause for annoyance and fails to stop on being asked to do so by police will be guilty of an offence.
Niacro said early intervention provided a solid foundation for tackling anti-social behaviour in the long term.
It added: "While there is a need for faster, short-term solutions, it would be remiss to suggest that this would be the solution to existing issues arising from anti-social behaviour."
A DoJ spokesman said it was currently considering responses to its public consultation, which closed on July 24, on potential legislation that may help prevent and tackle anti-social behaviour in Northern Ireland.