More Than Half Of Asbos Breached

About 55% of anti-social behaviour orders have been breached, government spending watchdog the National Audit Office says. The Asbos were either breached by offenders committing more offences or by breaking the terms of the order. The NAO said 35% of Asbo holders breached the order on five or more occasions, but the average number of breaches was four per person.

{mosimage}Minister Tony McNulty said breaches did not mean Asbos were failing. The NAO found that one offender had breached an Asbo 25 times, and there was a “hard core” of people who carried on with anti-social behaviour no matter what measures were taken.

The watchdog looked at the impact of three of the most common interventions used to stop anti-social behaviour – warning letters, which cost £63 to administer, acceptable behaviour contracts (ABCs), and Asbos, which cost more than £3000.

About two-thirds of people who received letters from the police or ABCs did not engage in any further anti-social behaviour.

The NAO also said the cost to government agencies of responding to reports of anti-social behaviour in England and Wales is approximately £3.4bn per year.

NAO chief Sir John Bourn said “more action is needed” for those hard-core offenders who breached Asbos. “The Home Office should formally evaluate the success of different interventions and the impact of combining enforcement interventions with support services to better advise anti-social behaviour co-ordinators at a local level. They should also consider developing and implementing further more preventive measures to tackle the causes of anti-social behaviour.”

Home Office minister Tony McNulty said: “I don’t accept a breach of an Asbo is the failure of an Asbo. Where breaches are reported it means that individuals are being monitored, that communities feel confident enough to report them and, let’s be clear, if an offender breaches his or her order, there will be serious consequences, and rightly so.

“We need to be clear that the breach of an Asbo is not the failure of the Asbo, but the failure of the individual to abide by its conditions.” He added that the report showed intervention, by all three methods, was working “bringing relief to neighbourhoods across the country.”

Chairman of the Commons’ all-party Public Accounts Committee, Edward Leigh, said the Home Office needed to reinforce the message to those who breach Asbos that “their behaviour is unacceptable and it will not be tolerated”.

“Instead of being startled into bringing their behaviour into check, too often offenders respond to an Asbo by sneering at the authorities. We are not talking about high jinks from a few mischievous youngsters – we are talking about yobs whose persistent criminal activity, intimidation and plain disregard for others are making our city centres a no-go area.”

The breaches were seen by the Tories as evidence of Labour acting soft on anti-social behaviour.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said: “They could be a real weapon against crime if they were properly enforced but these figures show that is not the case. This reduces them to nothing more than yet another Labour initiative designed to grab a headline rather than address a serious problem.”

The Liberal Democrats said it showed that the government had a “heavy-handed over-reliance on Asbos”. Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said: “The strategy of carpeting the country in Asbos and demonising thousands of young people was always far too blunt a tool to deal with the complexities of anti-social behaviour. While Asbos may have their place, it is clear that they are not nearly as effective as ministers claim.”

Recent research by the Youth Justice Board found similar results and the study said that Asbos had become a “badge of honour” among young people.

Many tackling youth offending doubted their effectiveness and some teenagers saw them as glamorous, the study said.