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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 November, 2003, 01:27 GMT
Young offenders flout behaviour orders
Broken window
Offenders who breach Asbos risk serving a prison sentence
Persistent young offenders are ignoring government attempts to curb their bad behaviour, a BBC investigation has revealed.

Anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) are obtained by local councils and police forces in England and Wales and are meant to be a tough, last chance, alternative to prison for both adult, but predominantly juvenile, offenders.

But BBC One's Kenyon Confronts programme has discovered that nearly half of these orders have been flouted by young tearaways, despite the fact that breaching Asbos means risking a prison sentence of up to five years.

The programme contacted all 207 councils in England and Wales and found that 842 of 1,300 Asbos had been served on under 18s who are terrorising their local communities.

The orders lay down strict rules about how the youths - some as young as 11 - behave and can also ban them from entering neighbourhoods where they have committed crimes so as to protect their victims.

Government survey

However the programme survey found that 370 - or 44% - of all orders against youngsters are known to have been breached, according to official local authority figures.

Hazel Blears
Minister Hazel Blears will review the programme's findings
The government's own much smaller survey, which included adults, found only 28-29% breached their anti-social behaviour orders.

Home Office minister, Hazel Blears, promised to review the BBC's findings but claimed that although such a large number of orders had been breached Asbos were still a success.

"That tells me that over half of them have not been breached," she told reporter Paul Kenyon.

She added: "That means the behaviour has stopped, so in over half the cases anti-social behaviour is no longer, I hope, a problem for those communities."

Terrorising residents

The programme also put several teenagers under surveillance - from the moment they got their orders in court - to find out how quickly they would break them.

The team filmed a 17-year-old in Brent who, along with seven other teenagers, was given an Asbo this summer after a costly three-week court hearing in front of a judge.

He was filmed entering an exclusion zone where he had been terrorising residents just six days after the court hearing.

They [offenders] are not taking the law seriously... they've been given 60 chances, so why take it seriously?
Resident Denise Gearey
In Middlesbrough one 14-year-old boy, who already has more than 100 offences to his name, was given an Asbo after targeting an elderly couple who were forced to leave their home of 28 years because of his behaviour.

Just a few weeks after his court appearance he was filmed riding a stolen motorbike at speed down the public footpaths of a local park.

The footage was shown to his horrified parents who have been warned they could be evicted from their home if their son breaches his order.

Another couple, Denise and Darren Gearey from Southampton, tell the programme how they have been the target of a vicious campaign of abuse led by one boy who was subsequently given an Asbo.

When taken to court he had 66 incidents of anti-social behaviour recorded against him.

Asbos are meant to be a last chance for such boys to stay out of jail but the couple have seen the boy repeatedly break the terms of his order.

Denise Gearey says: "They're not taking the law seriously. But, I mean, how can they?

"They've been given 60 chances, so why take it seriously?"

Taxpayers' money

Asbos were introduced by the government in 1999, but the system has been dogged by problems and controversy, not least because local authorities are often permitted to reveal the identity of offenders by "naming and shaming" them in local papers.

One Asbo typically costs a local authority 5,000 to serve but the expense can increase significantly if individuals choose to appeal, all of which is paid for by the taxpayer.

The government originally anticipated 5,000 orders would be made every year, but in reality only 1,300 Asbos have been served in four years.

But ministers insist they are proving to be a powerful deterrent to young tearaways.

The government claims the publicity surrounding the cases not only shames the targets into good behaviour but also empowers local communities who are able to recognise offenders and report their misbehaviour to the police.

Kenyon Confronts: Yobs Busting the Ban was broadcast at 1930 GMT on Wednesday, 5 November on BBC One.

Yobs: Busting the Ban
30 Oct 03  |  Kenyon Confronts
Have your say
05 Nov 03  |  Kenyon Confronts


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