Belfast Telegraph

‘Ineffective’ Asbos should be scrapped, says justice chief

By Claire McNeilly

Antisocial Behaviour Orders (Asbos) should be scrapped in Northern Ireland, the chair of the Justice Committee has said.

Asbos were designed to prevent behaviour which causes, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to others, and were brought in under the last Labour Government.

Lord Maurice Morrow was speaking after the current Conservative Home Secretary said they were to be reviewed in England and Wales.

Theresa May said the Government believes the orders do nothing to rehabilitate offenders and criminalise many young people.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the UUP peer slammed Asbos as “ineffective” and said he would “like to get rid of them”.

“I have no hesitation in calling for the scrapping of Asbos in Northern Ireland,” Lord Morrow said.

“I’m not shedding any tears that they’re going in England and Wales and I think we should follow suit.

“They aren’t effective and indeed some of those who have got them wear them like a badge of honour.”

More Asbos are issued in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK. Here, the highest number are issued in Ballymena.

Some of those at the forefront of local policing are not so sure getting rid of the orders would be a step forward.

Inspector Pete Bouma, who runs the PSNI neighbourhood team in the Co Antrim town, said they play a useful role in community policing.

He said: “Asbos are an important addition to the range of measures at our disposal to tackle antisocial behaviour.

“Ballymena has issued most in Northern Ireland, and although they aren’t a first choice for us, they have been a deterrent.”

However, the orders could soon be a thing of the past as the Department of Justice (DoJ) makes plan to roll out its new Community Safety Strategy.

A department spokesman told this newspaper that consultation on the new legislation is about to get under way.

“Asbos have been used proportionally more in Northern Ireland than in England and Wales,” he said.

“A key piece of our work is the development of a new Community Safety Strategy for Northern Ireland, which the Department will be consulting on this autumn with a view to introducing a new strategy next year.

“This provides a fresh opportunity to consider our approach to tackling antisocial behaviour, including the approach taken by colleagues in other jurisdictions.”

Figures provided by the PSNI suggest that 128 Asbos were given to people here between 2005 and June 2010. Of that figure, almost a third (39) were issued in Ballymena, with just 24 in Belfast.

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