Sunday Life

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Claim introduction of Asbos was complete waste of time

TEENAGE tearaways and neighbours from hell have been hit by just 51 anti-social behaviour orders in just THREE YEARS, Sunday Life can reveal.

Asbos came into force in 2004 to combat a wave of underage drinking, intimidation and violence.

Former minister John Spellar, who introduced the legislation, pledged it would be used "early and effectively". The law gives police, councils and the Housing Executive powers to apply for an Asbo from the courts to ban an individual from entering a certain area or from specific acts.

But, according to official NIO statistics, Asbos are being handed out at just over one a month.

It is a dismal return for what many politicians hailed as being of real and practical benefit to society. Part of the problem, according to cops and councils, is that the behaviour orders are cumbersome and bureaucratic.

One PSNI officer said there was still confusion over the complex process of filling out an order. Another told us it was simpler to use old-fashioned legislation governing public order offences and vandalism.

Another difficulty is that orders must be in place for three months before an actual Asbo can be applied for.

The orders are designed to tackle persistent disorder "likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress" by anyone over the age of 10.

Alliance law and order spokesman Stephen Farry said Asbos were merely a " sticking plaster" response to a major problem of anti-social behaviour.

"A real difficulty is that some have come to see it as a badge of honour to be boasted about among their cronies," he said.

One community worker in west Belfast also told us: "There is clear evidence that Asbos do not work. The problems we face in joyriding, intimidation of neighbours and targeting of the elderly have actually increased in the past three years.

"There should be zero tolerance of such behaviour, but, for whatever reason, Asbos are not the answer."

Even police chiefs are now pushing for on-the-spot fines to help battle yob culture. Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said recently he and boss Sir Hugh Orde were keen for "instant justice" penalties as a " short, sharp measure in terms of changing behaviour".

? Since August 2004, the number of Asbos has totalled 51. Police secured 46, councils three and the Housing Executive two in the following areas: Antrim (1); Ballymena (10); Bangor (2); Belfast (16); Coleraine (3); Craigavon (1); Downpatrick (1); Dungannon (3); Enniskillen (1); Larne (3); Londonderry (3); Magherafelt (1); Newry (3); Newtownards (2), Omagh (1).

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