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Expert Comment: New Antisocial Behaviour Laws

Law Thursday 24 May 2012

The new anti-social behaviour measures outlined by Teresa May (criminal behaviour orders or ‘crimbos’ are set to replace the asbo) are said to be a more streamlined system but instead represent a more punitive approach by the coalition government.

The measures include the use of detention for teenagers who breach the new orders. The Home Secretary proposes up to 5 years in custody for the breach of an order for an offence that does not in itself carry a custodial sentence. With the numbers in youth custody having recently fallen, there is a very real threat that these measures could lead to the reversal of this decrease.

At a time when young people are facing record levels of unemployment, have had financial support for further education cut, fees for higher education increased and funding for children’s and youth services  decimated, the further criminalisation of young people is not a move that should be welcomed.

There is little doubt that the behaviour of some, in particular teenagers, is a concern in many communities but the solution does not lie in directing more young people through the courts. This instead compounds levels of social exclusion, increases the likelihood of re-offending and leads to future involvement in the criminal justice system and the resulting loss of employment, stable accommodation and broken ties with families.

There instead needs to be investment in youth services and engagement programmes and increased use of interventions that address the whole family. In addition the government would be better placed to focus its attention on addressing the underlying causes of anti-social behaviour namely poverty, unemployment, access to education and sustainable housing. 

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