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Last Updated: Monday, 15 August 2005, 01:14 GMT 02:14 UK
Tourette's children 'given asbos'
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

A group of youths
The charity is worried about Asbos
Asbos were designed to curb the behaviour of the anti-social and troublemakers.

But should a child with uncontrollable health problems, whose condition makes their behaviour unmanageable, be given an Asbo?

A children's charity claims that increasingly these are the very children who are being hauled before the courts and given Asbos, or anti-social behaviour orders.

The British Institute for Brain Injured Children (Bibic) has details of more than 15 examples where children with Asperger's, Tourette's Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) were given orders, and says there are many more cases.


In one case, a 12-year-old autistic boy was punished for staring over his neighbour's fence; another boy with Tourette's Syndrome was given his order for constantly swearing.

Because Asbos are regarded as civil matters, they are dealt with by an adult court, rather than by a justice panel especially designed for children.

It is a little like saying to somebody who has epilepsy 'do not fit'
Julie Spencer-Cingoz

This means that if the children breach their Asbos they do not have the same rights to social and mental health reports as 'criminal' juveniles (aged up to 17).

The Home Office says rules are in place to ensure children with medical and social needs are properly assessed, and say they have asked for Bibic's dossier.

Just over 2,000 Asbos have been issued to children under 17.

Julie Spencer-Cingoz, chief executive of Bibic and a trained psychiatric nurse, said children were being criminalised because of their medical conditions.

"It is a little like saying to somebody who has epilepsy 'do not fit'. And then when they do fit saying that they have broken their contract.

"You would not do that, and yet we are applying the same conditions to children with other medical conditions."


She said that Bibic was not anti-Asbo and did believe anti-social behaviour needed to be dealt with, but disputed that the courts were the place to do this.

"It is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

"Serving an Asbo may well act as a lever to get the authorities to take action, and we are hearing from a number of people that this is the case, but it is putting the cart before the horse.

"We want the courts to differentiate between these children, and those who do not have an underlying medical condition."

He should have received help, but he didn't get it

Mrs Spencer-Cingoz said the details of their files had been sent to the Home Office.

Claire* said her son Shaun, who has ADHD and speech and language problems, was badly failed by the courts.

He was just 12 when he was charged with minor criminal offences, including theft. He was given an eight month custodial sentence and served four months.

He was then given an Asbo and, over the last two years, has been back in court four times for breaching it by breaking the curfew conditions, even though he could not tell the time.

Claire said the court was told that Shaun had learning problems and the developmental age of a child half his 12 years, but that it had made no difference.

"The solicitor had an assessment carried out by a clinical psychologist, who said that it was highly probable that he had ADHD."

She said Shaun had needed social and educational help, not imprisonment.

"He was scared. He was worried about being away from home.


"He went off the rails when he went up to secondary school because he could not cope with the work.

"He should have received help, but he didn't get it.

"He started running with a group of boys older than him, one was 18."

She said many people in their home town had known who Shaun was.

The local papers even applied twice to the courts to get restrictions lifted so Shaun could be publicly 'named and shamed'.

When applying for an order against a young person aged between 10 and 17, an assessment should always be made of their circumstances and needs
Home Office

Claire said Shaun, who has severe speech and language problems, is now attending a special school, but his mother said help had come too little and too late.

"He has nearly finished school and yet he has never had a proper education."

The Magistrates Courts Association said they were aware of Bibic's concerns and had met them and the probation union Napo.

The Home Office said their guidelines had been designed to protect vulnerable children.

Specialist knowledge

A spokesman said: "Local authorities have a duty under the NHS and Community Care Act 1990 to assess any person who may be in need of community care services.

"If there is evidence to suggest that a perpetrator of anti-social behaviour is suffering from a disability, learning disability, mental health problems or is vulnerable in any other way, then a practitioner with specialist knowledge should be involved in an assessment process to determine the cause of the behaviour and how it can be addressed.

"When applying for an order against a young person aged between 10 and 17, an assessment should always be made of their circumstances and needs.

"This will enable the local authority to ensure that appropriate services are provided for the young person concerned and for the court to have the necessary information about him or her."

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

Teenager on Asbo goes on the run
04 Aug 05 |  Suffolk
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04 Aug 05 |  Lincolnshire

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