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Page last updated at 22:15 GMT, Sunday, 20 November 2005

ASBOs on trial

youngster vandalising a car
Panorama: ASBOs On Trial was broadcast on BBC One on November 20 2005.
Tony Blair says tackling anti-social behaviour is a top priority for his Government and the number of ASBOs issued has been doubling year on year, with hundreds of adults and children going to jail for breaching their orders.

Six years after their introduction, Panorama looks at their use through the stories of the ASBO kids and their victims.

Lesley Pulman and her neighbours suffered for years, unable to get a criminal conviction against the youths who had been "behaving like gangsters, threatening and intimidating people." She gave evidence to secure an ASBO. She says:

"It brought them down to what they were, and they were bullies and cowards."

But the programme also uncovers evidence that the increasing use of ASBOs has led to vulnerable children being criminalised. Manchester City Council issues more ASBOs than any other authority in Britain and is one of the Government's Trailblazer areas for tackling anti-social behaviour.

In Manchester Panorama uncovers cases where children with learning difficulties and psychiatric problems face the prospect of jail for breaching orders they are not capable of understanding.

One is 16-years-old, of very low intelligence with an IQ of only 65, and suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. His ASBO prevented him from meeting in groups of more than three and banned him from entering streets close to his home.

Over six months he breached his ASBO twenty- four times, each time a criminal offence, resulting in numerous arrests and periods in police custody. This triggered self-harming which saw him set fire to himself in a cell and try to hang himself twice.

Professor Susan Bailey, Registrar at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, tells the programme she sees cases of children with psychiatric disorders criminalised by breaching their ASBOs.

"We see them within the criminal justice system, where we have difficulty comprehending how they got into that system when their disorders are so profound."

Production team:
Reporter: Phil Parry
Producer: Darren Kemp
Assistant Producer: Jo Murphy
Deputy Editors: Andrew Bell, Frank Simmonds
Editor: Mike Robinson


ASBOs on trial
20 Nov 05 |  Panorama
Your comments
20 Nov 05 |  Panorama
Programme transcript
23 Nov 05 |  Panorama

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