Asbos Viewed As ‘Badge Of Honour’

{mosimage}Anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) have become a “badge of honour” among young people, according to a survey. The year-long Youth Justice Board study looked at Asbos given to under-18s between January 2004 and January 2005 in 10 areas of England and Wales. Of 137 young people, 67 had breached their order at least once, 42 more than once and six on six occasions or more. “High levels of breach had led some sentencers to question how much impact Asbos were having on the behaviour of individual young people,” the government agency said.

One district judge told researchers young people who breached orders were not properly punished. “There are quite a lot of people breaching orders and not a lot happening to them when they do,” he said. “You would increase the (prison) population enormously if we… enforced Asbos fully.”

Parents and carers of the young people given orders said an Asbos was now viewed as a “diploma” that boosted a child’s street credibility. “Some of the friends are left out now because they are not on an Asbo,” said the mother of three young men who were all on Asbos. “I know a boy that is hell-bent on getting an Asbo because he feels left out.”

One police officer criticised the use of “exclusion zones” as part of Asbo conditions. “You are inviting little Johnnie Smith to… run over the imaginary line and then run away from the police,” he said. “You’ve actually invented a game for the kids to play.”

Youth Justice Board chairman Professor Rod Morgan urged the police, councils and courts to consult Youth Offending Teams and “exhaust every preventative measure in the community” before giving a young person an Asbo.

The study also indicates 22% of young people given Asbos are black or Asian – two and a half times the proportion of people from ethnic minorities in England and Wales.

One district judge made official inquiries to his superiors after noticing Somali youths were over-represented in Asbo applications, the report says. “It was bordering on the point where criticism could be made that the police were targeting a particular ethnic group,” he said.

The research was conducted by the Policy Research Bureau and crime reduction charity Nacro. Nacro said it was concerned Asbos were being used too readily and there was a “worryingly high” level of applications for Asbos on certain ethnic groups. Chief executive Paul Cavadino said: “Asbos should only be used as a last resort. Some areas are using them as an early option without first trying other approaches.”

Mr Cavadino also called on ministers to set up “rigorous” ethnic monitoring and clear targets to eliminate racial discrimination. “The wide definition of anti-social behaviour that can result in an Asbo has created enormous potential for discrimination,” he said.