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dinsdag, mei 22, 2012

Measures to replace Asbos set out

Youths on an estate in ManchesterThe home secretary believes Asbos have become a badge of honour for some youths

Planned new measures to tackle anti-social behaviour in England and Wales will be announced later, including new orders to replace Asbos.

The plans are expected to include a new "community trigger", which would force the police, councils and other agencies to act after several complaints.

The government says the new measures will be simpler and more flexible than current powers for tackling problems.

Labour said the measures were a "weaker rebrand" of powers to tackle the issue.

The proposals mark the most far-reaching reforms of measures to deal with anti-social behaviour since the introduction of Asbos (anti-social behaviour orders) in the late 1990s.

End to Asbos

The Home Office first signalled an end to Asbos at the start of last year.

It believes the orders are seen by some youths as a badge of honour and it has pointed out that more than half are breached at least once.

Among the proposals to be published in a government White Paper later are establishing criminal behaviour orders, which would be used to prevent convicted criminals from engaging in particular activities or going to certain places.

Crime prevention injunctions would be civil orders used to prevent problem behaviour. They have a lower standard of proof and it is claimed they could be put in place in days or even hours.

However, the Labour Party, which introduced the Asbo under Tony Blair, has criticised the government's plans.

"The government's new measures are a weaker rebrand, making it harder for the police, councils and housing associations to take tough enforcement action when people's lives are made a misery by anti-social bullies or nuisance neighbours," said shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper.

"It should not take three separate complaints, or five different households complaining before getting a response.

"All complaints should be dealt with, and quickly: no-one wants to wait for the government's slow trigger."

Making a difference

In the Collyhurst area of Manchester, there are residents who will tell you that Asbos have made a difference.

They say that 15 years ago life on the Irk Valley estate could at times be frightening.

"I had graffiti all over the front of my house calling me a scumbag," said Mary Armstrong, chairwoman of the Irk Valley Residents' Association.

"I had nine cars trashed - four of them had to be written off."

Since then, the residents have started schemes to improve the area which have helped to build community pride.

And while Asbos were vital in stopping problems like violence and vandalism, often that took time.

Mary Armstrong believes the new measures need to stop people from causing trouble a lot more quickly.

"If you have got somebody causing anti-social behaviour and they think nobody is going to do anything about that, then that is fuel for them," she said.

"They will do it all the more."

Community say

The government believes there needs to be a greater focus on finding local solutions to the problem of anti-social behaviour.

Police forces, councils and other agencies will be encouraged to listen to the views of residents and victims in trying to come up with answers.

Fiona Pilkington (left) and her daughter Francecca HardwickFiona Pilkington and her daughter Francecca Hardwick died after years of abuse

And the community trigger is designed to ensure that neighbourhoods and victims are not ignored when they have persistent problems.

That idea for a "trigger" follows a number of high-profile cases, including that of Fiona Pilkington who killed herself and her disabled daughter following a decade of abuse.

It is being piloted in three areas - Manchester, Brighton and Hove and West Lindsey, in Lincolnshire.

"There is not a 'one-solution-fits-all' approach to any anti-social behaviour incident," said Sgt Claire Appleton, of Greater Manchester Police.

"What this is going to do is give us an opportunity not only to work more effectively with our partners - but also to bring the community on board."

But the Criminal Justice Alliance has warned that enforcement powers are not enough in themselves.

"There is a risk that if these new measures are not accompanied by necessary support in communities - youth clubs, family support and health services - they will do little in the long term to tackle this important issue," said Vicki Helyar-Cardwell, director of the alliance.

The government insists there will be more freedom in the ways agencies deal with that issue, but it says much of what is called anti-social behaviour is really crime and it needs to be treated as such.


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