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Programme transcript

youngster vandalising a car
The following is a transcript of Panorama's "ASBOs on trial", first broadcast on 20 November 2005 on BBC One at 22:15 GMT

NB: THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A TRANSCRIPTION UNIT RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT: BECAUSE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF MIS-HEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY, IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS ACCURACY.


PHIL PARRY: Friday night and this can be any ordinary street in Britain.

[night time - disturbance in street]

HOPKINS: Right, what's going on?

GIRL: He punched me right in the face.

PHIL PARRY: It's the sort of behaviour the government has been tackling with tough laws like antisocial behaviour orders.

[youths jumping on, and kicking, parked car]

Tonight on Panorama we hear from people whose neighbourhoods were plagued by antisocial behaviour and say their lives have now been transformed. But we examine worrying evidence that it's not just the violent and disorderly, it's the weak and vulnerable too who are being caught up in the ASBO crackdown.

May 2002

JOHN CARR: Another fire at the end of my garden, another car. When's it all going to stop? The cars were brought onto the estate and they were always set fire to. But sometimes they used to be set fire to and stay here for days and days.. weeks on end in fact.

PHIL PARRY: John Carr has lived on the Kingswood Estate in Corby, Northamptonshire for 18 years. In that time he's filmed much of the destruction and violence around him.

[buildings aflame - billowing thick black smoke]

May 2002

JOHN CARR

There go the garages that have been full of rubbish for the last 3, 4, 5 months. That's the only one I actually got on film, but I mean all these flats around here were set fire to. I mean these flames bursting out the tops of the windows and you wondered whether we were going to be next.

Summer 2004

PHIL PARRY: The estate had a long-term problem with teenagers who had been gather in groups drinking and making people's lives a misery.

CARR: They smashed fences, they were abusive to people, they were.. you know.. just sitting in the middle of the street drinking cans of beer, vodka.

PHIL PARRY: One of their leaders was a local teenager called Scott Jones.

[Jones, with rowdy children, spots camera, jeers and gesticulates with two fingers]

In one night him and his little entourage did about five or six hundred pounds-worth of damage to my fencing, and you know.. it seemed unstoppable. It seemed absolutely unstoppable.

SCOTT JONES

I just stopped my mates and that getting wrecked, and then if someone kicks off, then it just, something starts then you've got to finish it, isn't it, really.

CARR: Thirty times we've called, 30 times throwing stones at people's windows, drinking.

SCOTT JONES

Stupidness that is, isn't it. That's just little kiddies' things, throwing stones at windows and that.

PHIL PARRY: Looking back on it, when do you think it was that Scott went off the rails?

MICK JONES, Scott's father

Well I think it's a lot to do with the time I did something stupid and went to prison, and I was in prison for.. well, a year and three months which was ?? and I think quite a lot of it seems to come from then because he wasn't doing the stuff before I went away, and.. but he was bang at it when I came back, you know, he was doing all this stuff.

Summer 2004

[Scott arrested by two police officers]

PHIL PARRY: Scott Jones was warned constantly and arrested dozens of times, but nothing seemed to change his behaviour. He remained contemptuous of anything the law could throw at him.

SCOTT: Cos warnings are nothing, are they. You get a couple of warnings, like a little slap on the wrist, don't you, you just think oh what's that. Keep on doing it and doing it and doing it and then finally you do it too much and then you get proper dealt with, take you to court, and then you realise all this is worth little stupid things like that.

Summer 2004

SCOTT: [proffering raised finger to camera] Suck that... suck that.

PHIL PARRY: Last year Scott Jones was given an antisocial behaviour order. It carries strict conditions to control his behaviour and if broken, it can end in jail. The new Labour Government first introduced ASBOS 7 years ago. They're brought mainly by local councils or the police and were designed to tackle the kind of behaviour which was making life a misery for families across Britain, vandalism, abuse, noisy neighbours, problems the existing law couldn't easily solve. ASBOS are a civil measure but breaching them is a criminal offence and could lead to a jail term of up to five years.

SCOTT: The ASBOS can be like a little booster and it made me realise that I don't want to be doing this because.. the ASBOS gave me things not to do, and they're the things that if I do them, then that's how I get trouble. So if I've got something like there, telling me not to do it basically, then that's keeping me like thinking not to do it.

PHIL PARRY: Why was it necessary with Scott to go to an ASBO? What sort of a young man is he, would you say?

CHRIS MALLENDER, Chief Executive, Corby Borough Council

Well I think just very, very disruptive and quite confrontational with people, and I think that's the problem. I think there's been quite a bit of what I would call low-level intimidation, and I think in a couple of points Scott has gone beyond what I would regard as being low level into quite serious behaviour.

PHIL PARRY: Corby has a high crime rate, but ASBOS are used here rarely. The area has seen a combination of high profile policing and limited use of ASBOS. Twenty-one people currently are on them. The local council say the community is benefiting and their approach is getting results. They believe it contributed to a 7% fall in recorded crime last year. As they tackle crime and antisocial behaviour here, Corby Council say using ASBOS is not the main answer.

[children playing on rooftops]

MALLENDER: We see ASBOS as the last resort. We don't want to issue any ASBOS at all if we can avoid them. So our approach really is to try and appeal to the positive side of the primarily youths that are involved. We do a lot of proactive work in the community.

PHIL PARRY: Within three days of receiving an ASBO, on his 18th birthday Scott Jones was in trouble again. He was drunk and abusive to people on the streets and, by breaching his order, he'd broken the law and was now due in court.

What do you think might happen?

SCOTT: Well one of my mates got put away, isn't it. He broke it the first time and he got put away for 3 months the other week. I don't know, depends what the bench is like, isn't it, whether they had a good day or a bad day really, isn't it.

21 September 2005

PHIL PARRY: It's the day of Scott Jones' court hearing but he's not yet turned up. Outside, one man is wanted by the police in connection with an alleged assault on the previous night.

[ugly scene, boy resisting arrest, squirted in face with squirt guns, finally overcome and pinned to the ground]

MAN: [to officer] Oi, get off him.

Scott Jones finally arrived an hour and a half late, but the court is still sitting and will hear his case. The most recent Home Office figures show that 42% of ASBOS are breached, and more than half of those breaches result in prison. The Magistrates are told it was the first time that Scott Jones had broken the conditions of his ASBO, even so, he's jailed for 3 ½ months.

MALLENDER: We generally, across the agencies, have been trying really hard on the Kingswood Estate, particularly really hard with Scott to try and steer him away from the sort of behaviour that's led to the custodial sentence. Really disappointed that it's come to this. I think that's why we very much regard them as a last resort. The last thing we want to do is criminalise a young person, a young Colby Person in particular, because it does have an impact on the rest of their life.

PHIL PARRY: But Corby Council's restraint is not shared by all authorities across Britain. In the last 3 years in England and Wales the use of ASBOS has more than doubled every 12 months. Last year over 2,600 were given out. It's all part of the government's wider strategy to control bad behaviour. They're about to unveil proposals giving greater powers to punish offenders without even having to take them to court. The government is also examining how issuing ASBOS can be speeded up.

Labour Party Conference 2005

TONY BLAIR: Talking of antisocial behaviour I must tell you this one. Polling day, Manchester, a member of my staff canvasses a young man 19 years old and asks him if he's going to vote. "I'd like to vote Labour, I really would" he said. "That Tony Blair has really sorted my life out." "Come on then" she said "the polling station is just around the corner." "I can't" he said "my ASBO covers the school grounds." [Laughter] True story [Applause]

PHIL PARRY: To the local media this is ASBO city. Manchester, like Corby, is near the top of Britain's crime league, but the council views ASBOS very differently, handing out more per head than anywhere else. One in every 150 children in the city council area has one and in all 528 people have received an order, that's twice as many as Birmingham, a city double the size. Since January of last year more than 100 people in Manchester have been jailed for breaching their ASBO, 48 of them children. The government called Manchester a trail blazer council and wants it to share its experiences so that other authorities can follow them.

HAZEL BLEARS MP, Home Office Minister

If you look at Manchester, Manchester is a big city that's got a whole range of problems in many areas, and they've used their powers in a very creative way, I think, in Manchester. They've been prepared to stand up and be counted and to be at the forefront. So all credit to them.

Cllr EDDY NEWMAN, Executive member for Housing, Manchester City Council

We campaigned for the legislation and as soon as it was available we started to use it, and we found [words unclear] from out communities we don't just do it because it has strong support, we do it because we think it works and it is helping to reduce antisocial behaviour in Manchester and therefore we're happy for others to learn from us and follow us if they so wish.

PHIL PARRY: With the Council's support Lesley Pullman became one of the first people to take a stand against antisocial behaviour in Manchester. She suffers from multiple sclerosis. Her health worsened after one family moved in nearby and drinking and disorder spilled out onto the street.

LESLEY PULLMAN

My car was parked outside and this group came up to my walls. I had a camera of my own fitted against the wall which took in views at the front where they were shouting and threatening me, originally one with a mask on, and then he jumped on my car.

PHIL PARRY: For almost two years Lesley Pullman had to put up with noise and vandalism outside her home.

PULLMAN: It affected me and it affects the whole community. Nobody is immune from these people, like octopuses their tentacles go far and wide. The impotence that you feel in not being able to tackle it, we tried going through the legal process, the criminal courts, it failed us miserably. They've got used to the court system. They're very sophisticated people, they know how the court system works, they know how the police work. We're law-abiding people, we don't know that, because they'd be out the court and within 40-50 minutes be back on the corner doing the same thing.

PHIL PARRY: But then a Council official told Lesley Pullman she could secure an ASBO against her tormentors. The Council collected evidence from her and from her neighbours. She attended court as a witness and the ASBO was issued.

PULLMAN: I came out of court like.. I felt for the first time I'd got some justice, just the way the judge spoke to them. These two little miscreants who had been strutting round with the gang, behaving like gangsters, threatening and intimidating people, he brought them down to what they was, and they was bullies and cowards. And I sat in front of them and I could see their faces and every dog has its day, and I had my day that day.

PHIL PARRY: Two teenagers who had been among the ringleaders of the gang were banned from the area, just by being near Lesley Pullman's house they were committing a criminal offence. They did and were immediately reported to the police for breaching their ASBO.

PULLMAN: They got 6 and 8 months jail, so it was effective for us. By curbing them we sent our message in this community that we wont put up with that. You know, we sent out a message to all the other miscreants that if you come here we're going to take you on.

PHIL PARRY: Lesley Pullman now runs a witness support group in Manchester to encourage more people to bring ASBOs. When she won the order on her neighbours three years ago it was one of just 41 ASBOS in the city. The figure is now more than 11 times that with most against juveniles.

It's Friday night and the police are patrolling Gorton, one of the most deprived areas of Manchester. Here they're putting resources into tackling the problems of neighbourhood nuisance and youths drinking on the streets.

P.C. ANNA HOPKINS: Hello lads. What's going on, what's that you're drinking?

BOY: Seven-Up

HOPKINS: Lemonade. How old are you?

BOY: Why?

HOPKINS: You're what?

BOY: Why?

PHIL PARRY: There is a high concentration of ASBOS among juveniles in Gorton, and the police support the Council's tough stance in issuing them.

HOPKINS: What's that you're wearing? What jacket is it? Has it got a make?

PHIL PARRY: Like Corby, they say their approach too is producing results with recorded crime falling by 11% in Manchester last year.

HOPKINS: Listen, what we're going to do is we're going to disperse you, okay, we're going to each send you on your own way.

PC ANNA HOPKINS

A lot of it is just youths causing annoyance which can range from being rowdy, drinking on the streets, smashing up the bottles in the parks, setting off fireworks, setting off little fires in parks, that kind of behaviour, swearing at people as they pass by, harassing people. They like.. they'll hang around in big groups and at weekends they'll be drinking.

PHIL PARRY: Nothing major yet but you get the feeling that it could develop.

HOPKINS: The more they drink, the more likely it's going to get out of control, whether it's just by, as you can hear in the background, shouting and swearing and stuff, which can be really distressing for people who are living in the area, or whether it's.. you know.. signs of criminal damage or whatever.

HOPKINS: Right, what's going on?

GIRL: He punched me right in the face.

HOPKINS: ¿ youths and one of them has just been assaulted and he's made off on foot. Right, what's going on.

GIRL: I come down to the phone box [words unclear]

HOPKINS: Do you just want to get on the pavement.

GIRL: [unclear] come on then, do it. and he [unclear]

HOPKINS: Right, are you going to calm down?

GIRL: No cos [unclear]

HOPKINS: Just stay here. Oi, excuse me, are you her boyfriend?

BOY: Yeah.

HOPKINS: Yeah, will you just try and calm her down.

PHIL PARRY: On this occasion there were no arrests and the teenagers were sent on their way. This year the Government appointed England's first Children's Commissioner. As an independent adviser Professor Al Ainsley Green recommends policies that can help children. He's not against antisocial behaviour orders but is concerned by the growing numbers.

Prof AL AYNSLEY-GREEN, Children's Commissioner for England

If the ASBO is inappropriate, if it's not proportionate, if it's not just, if the ASBO is breached, then there's a risk of that child or young person having a criminal record. That could be catastrophic for the right chances with employment and so on and so forth, so I come back to the point repeatedly, let's make the ASBO the last port of call rather than the first, and make sure we've gone through a proper process.

[TV] A very good morning to you. It's 7 o'clock, this is Greater Manchester's Breakfast from BBC¿.

MUM: Liam, come on now, it's time to get up.

PHIL PARRY: It's cases like 14 year old Liam Scullion that most worry the Children's Commissioner. Liam has a psychiatric condition known as attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Every morning he must take medication to control violent mood swings. Earlier this year, before the correct level of drugs was fixed, he was given an ASBO.

BARBARA SCULLION, Liam's mother

Liam is ADHD and struggles with a lot of low self-esteem.. well he did do previous to medication, and he was really very down in himself.

LIAM: Without my medication I get really, really giddy and start hurting myself and just get on everyone's nerves and everything.

PHIL PARRY: Do you have trouble controlling your temper?

LIAM SCULLION

Yeah, it's like if I get something in my mind that I'm going to do something, like I can't stop to think. But I'm trying to learn now, trying to make things better and that.

Prof SUSAN BAILEY, Registrar, Royal College of Psychiatrists

It's been long recognised in all the very good research studies that there's a very strong association between early onset antisocial behaviour and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Children with ADHD don't have the capacity to concentrate, they don't fully understand instructions or boundaries or rules placed on them.

LIAM: I was out with my mates one day a few weeks¿ a few months ago now, and some lads was like calling me and everything and I knew I was going to lose my temper, and they was still calling me, so in the end I just like lost my temper, I picked up a big piece of wood off a fence nearby and was like hit him once with it, and then we was fighting.

PHIL PARRY: Liam has an interim ASBO. Interims are meant to speed up the process. In effect they are temporary ASBOS before a full court hearing can be arranged. In Manchester most orders now start off as interim. They still carry the full force of the law but the Defence has little or not time to mount a legal challenge. Liam's case involves violence so he wasn't even told his ASBO hearing was taking place. He had no chance to represent himself in court, so the magistrates have no knowledge of his medical condition when they imposed his order.

BARBARA SCULLION: A man turned up at 9'oclock at night to serve him with the ASBO order, had no prior warning whatsoever, nobody had been to see me from the council or the police and still nobody's been near, not no police or anything.

PHIL PARRY: Has he been in trouble with the police before this?

BARBARA: No, no, not at all.

PHIL PARRY: So no criminal convictions or anything like that?

BARBARA: No, none at all, no criminal convictions whatsoever.

PHIL PARRY: The children we've spoken to some of them have been giving an ASBO without any warning, no interventional letter in one case, no interventional warning at all, went straight to an ASBO.

AYNSLEY-GREEN: Children have rights as citizens in our community today and that can be neither fair nor just.

Cllr EDDY NEWMAN, Executive Member for Housing, Manchester City Council

They'll have had an interim ASBO because we needed to do that to because there was an immediate problem with violence or threats of violence.

PHIL PARRY: Before moving to an ASBO councils are encouraged to give a formal warning about a child's behaviour where appropriate. Figures supplied by Manchester City Council show that 43% of juveniles received no warning interview before getting an ASBO. The councils say when the cases involve violence they need to go straight to an order to protect the public.

Isn't it something to be worried about when juveniles who receive ASBOs haven't received a warning interview at all?

NEWMAN: What is very worrying is that there is a small minority of youngsters who think that they can threaten people, who think that they can attack people, that they can throw fireworks at people, that they can threaten people with weapons, that, in one case, they can carry a crossbow, another case an axe or a machete and that this is apparently behaviour that they think they should be allowed to do in their neighbourhood.

PHIL PARRY: Even though Liam's ASBO is only a temporary interim order, breaching it is still a criminal offence and he could be jailed.

What sort of things might get you in trouble?

LIAM: He just said, anything he said even like messing about, toy fighting or anything on the street with my mates or like swearing, if I'm swearing at my mates it's like, you know, like having a buzz with them and that, messing about with them. And the like police see me doing it, I can get in trouble and dropping litter, if I get caught dropping litter, that's antisocial behaviour.

PHIL PARRY: Like many people with an ASBO Liam's movements are now strictly controlled. He cannot go to certain areas near his house, if he crosses this junction marked by the ASBO, even by mistake, he could be facing a 5 year jail term.

LIAM: If I go across that road it means I'm breaching my ASBO.

PHIL PARRY: So but it's only a few yards, can't you cross it, you can't cross here?

LIAM: Nah, you have to cross over the road there.

PHIL PARRY: Eventually interims must be confirmed with a full hearing, Liam will then be able to challenge the council in court but it can take months. In that hearing the council can include hearsay evidence, it's designed to protect frightened witnesses. It means they do not have to appear in court or even by identified, so council officials can simply give their evidence for them but the defence then has no chance to cross examine the original witness.

ALYSON KILPATRICK, Barrister

For centuries people have expected that if they are accused of something they go before a court, evidence is put before the judge or a jury in criminal courts, and it's tested properly and they're only punished if it's proved and has to be proved to a high standard. But in a situation where the norm is to have hearsay evidence and judges don't expect to hear live witnesses then the burden shifts entirely onto the defendant and it's very difficult to prove you didn't do anything if there's no one there to cross examine.

PHIL PARRY: Doesn't it cut against what the law is about, that someone who's an accuser is not even going to court to be cross examined when he may be saying something quite serious about somebody else?

HAZEL BLEARS MP, Home Office minister

The best evidence always is, of course, direct evidence from people who've been affected and that's what we'd always want to see happen, but in the minority of cases where people are intimidated, frightened, very vulnerable witnesses because of the anti social behaviour that's happened, I think it's right that professional evidence can be given.

TEACHER: What is antisocial behaviour?

CHILDREN: ASBOs.

TEACHER: What is the behaviour?

BOY: [unclear] windows.

BOY 2: Robbing.

BOY 3: Robbing bikes.

BOY: Smoking illegal drugs.

BOY 2: Throwing stones, prostitution.

TEACHER: We're not counting prostitution.

BOY: Weeing on the street.

TEACHER: Weeing on the street, that's a good one.

PHIL PARRY: Manchester City Council say ASBOs are just part of a range of measures they employ to prevent antisocial behaviour, many involving early intervention. These children, in Gorton, are attending a project part funded by the council to help them understand antisocial behaviour. The Crime and Disorder Act brought in ASBOs with a catch all definition of what antisocial behaviour is, acting in a manner that caused or is likely to cause harassment alarm or distress. It gives the authorities wide discretion about who to prosecute.

TEACHER: ..a good one, what else do young people do?

BOY: Messing about.

TEACHER: Messing about.

BOY: Shouting in the street.

TEACHER: Shouting in the street. Throwing stones at windows is brilliant.

BOY: Swearing.

TEACHER: Swearing, that's a good one.

BOY: Verbal abuse.

TEACHER: What about things like spitting?

BOY: That's a dirty habit.

TEACHER: That's a dirty habit and it's antisocial behaviour.

PHIL PARRY: The legal definition of antisocial behaviour is too complicated for this boy to understand. We've called him Andrew, he can't be identified for legal reasons. He's 16 but has a very low IQ of 65 and has attention deficit disorder as well. His doctors say he is impulsive and easily led and he has an ASBO. Today Andrew has just been arrested and then released after running from the police.

PHIL PARRY: Why did you run off when the police came?

ANDREW: I always run off from the police, all the time, every time.

PHIL PARRY: Why?

ANDREW: Don't like 'em.

PHIL PARRY: But if you run off from the police they might think you did it?

ANDREW: Yeah well I always run off.

PHIL PARRY: If he's totally innocent, why doesn't he just talk to them, say I didn't do that?

ANDREW'S MOTHER

Because he thinks they'll have him on breach of ASBO, they'll find some reason to have him on a breach of ASBO acting in an antisocial manner. So rather then stay there and wait to be breached he just gets off before they get him.

PHIL PARRY: Andrew has a conviction for violence after fighting two other boys but it was his behaviour around the area, abusing people, vandalism and throwing fireworks that got him an ASBO. It had conditions he found impossible to keep.

ANDREW'S MOTHER: He was not allowed in more than a group of 3 so he couldn't have a game of football which he did do on foundations football pitch. There was 5 a side, he got arrested because he was in a group more than 3. He just could not understand at all, there was words in it that he'd never heard of and for his IQ to put these sort of words into it, obviously he's not going to understand it.

PHIL PARRY: Early on there was an area you couldn't go in, wasn't there?

ANDREW: Yeah.

PHIL PARRY: And you went into it a lot of times, didn't you?

ANDREW: Yeah.

PHIL PARRY: Well why did you do that?

ANDREW: Because I lived round there.

ANDREW'S MOTHER: He couldn't go to his doctors, he couldn't go to his dentist, because they were all in Miles Platting, he couldn't go and see his father who lived in a pub in Miles Platting, he couldn't go into a shop and purchase a drink, which he did on a number of occasions, half an hour later there'd be knock on my door, he's under arrest, what for, breach of ASBO, what's he done, went in Medway shop and bought a can of Coke. I said 'Was he causing trouble?', 'No but it doesn't matter, he's breached his ASBO'. To me that's just criminalising him.

PHIL PARRY: How many times did he breach that ASBO when it was first imposed?

MOTHER: 24.

PHIL PARRY: 24 times?

MOTHER: 24.

PHIL PARRY: He clearly couldn't keep to it could he?

ANDREW: No.

PHIL PARRY: Do you know what antisocial behaviour is?

ANDREW: No.

PHIL PARRY: Do you understand how serious it is if you do breach it?

ANDREW: Don't think about it.

Prof SUSAN BAILEY, Registrar, Royal College of Psychiatrists

We have some young children who have very, very limited cognitive intellectual ability, where there is just no way they can stand the substance of the order they're put on or what is being asked of them and don't have the capacity to sustain behaviour over the long term to keep to conditions.

PHIL PARRY: What did you think about being locked up?

ANDREW: Shit.

PHIL PARRY: Can you tell me what you did, when you were locked up by the police, why they were questioning you?

ANDREW: Set myself on fire.

PHIL PARRY: What did you do?

ANDREW: Set myself on fire.

PHIL PARRY: How did you do that?

ANDREW: Got a lighter and..

MOTHER: He was self harming, self harming himself on one occasion, tried to hang himself with his jumper another occasion bit through to the bone on his arm. Another occasion tried to hang himself with his trousers. Now they do not put him a police cell anymore, they hold him in a holding area and have an officer flat facing him. Because they know he just throws himself off the walls, off the doors, he just self harms himself. He's wound up because he's not done anything criminal.

PHIL PARRY: Professor Bailey conducted a psychiatric examination of Andrew at the request of his defence team.

BAILEY: I think the self harm, particularly that he does carry out reflects the absolute critical part of the problem, that developmentally he functions as a very young child and his self harm is by gouging pieces out of his arm.

PHIL PARRY: How appropriate is it then, to control his behaviour with an ASBO?

BAILEY: I don't think his behaviour will be controlled with an ASBO, his behaviour will be controlled by understanding and meeting his needs.

PHIL PARRY: On another occasion when Panorama was filming Andrew the police arrived. He panicked believing he was going to be arrested yet again.

ANDREW: [hiding under table] What you doing? I'm just [un clear] here [un clear] get nicked [un clear].

PHIL PARRY: But this time it was a routine inquiry and nothing to do with Andrew. After a year and a half under his ASBO conditions, Andrew's legal team appealed to the Crown Court. A report by another psychiatrist was commissioned by the City Council and Andrew's solicitors to present to the judge. It said Andrew could self harm, even kill himself if the arrests for breaching his ASBO continued. The judge said Andrew's family had been left to flounder without the support needed to manage his behaviour but he decided the ASBO should remain as Andrew did have some understanding of right and wrong, but the most restrictive conditions, barring him from an area near his home and meeting in groups were removed. The others were simplified so Andrew could understand them.

You've spoken to children with severe behavioural problems, mental problems, attention deficit disorder, very low IQ, got into trouble they've been given an ASBO. What is your concern about that?

Prof AL AYNSLEY-GREEN, Children's Commissioner for England

I've been a children's doctor for 32 years, I've worked with families with children with learning and physical disabilities for along time, I understand their difficulties. Surely it's not fair or just to apply an order on a young person who can't understand the implications of the order, what that person needs is support and the family needs support to be able to cope with their behaviour, not to be punished and criminalised as a consequence.

PHIL PARRY: Because with that full ASBO on that child he had such a low IQ he didn't even he understand the conditions, he breached it 24 times. How can it be right to give a child, like that, an ASBO where he doesn't even understand the conditions, doesn't even understand the words?

Cllr EDDY NEWMAN, Executive Member for Housing, Manchester City Council

I don't accept that he has not understood that he was breaching the ASBO 24 times. He may well have not understood it 1 or 2 of those times, but there's a pattern of behaviour there, Manchester City Council is not in the business of targeting vulnerable youngsters. What we are in the business of doing is protecting the many vulnerable youngsters in Manchester who will have attention deficit disorder and other syndromes who don't get involved in antisocial behaviour, we're about the interests of protecting them. Those are the kind of actual vulnerable youngsters who are more often the target of the bullies who are involved in serious threatening antisocial behaviour.

PHIL PARRY: But he didn't even understand the conditions, 24 times he breached it, when he was arrested he was self harming, he set himself on fire on one occasion?

HAZEL BLEARS MP, Home Office minister

Right, well I mean cases like that are obviously a tragedy for the individuals and the families but also very difficult for communities and that's why I say that I think the public services have a real responsibility to look at, not just enforcement, but also support, make sure they use their powers appropriately but we've moved along way from the situation where this kind of behaviour used to simply go on unchallenged and people had to live to with it. They don't have to live with it anymore because we can do something to help both the communities and the individuals.

PHIL PARRY: If children commit a crime they cannot normally be named but ASBOs are different, they're civil law and many children with the orders find they are named and shamed, leaflets are published with the children's identity. These give details of what they've done along with the conditions they must keep to.

ALYSON KILPATRICK, Barrister

There is a assumption that the child will be named and that the authority can name and shame, certainly publicise the fact of the ASBO and the person against whom the ASBOs been made. But there is a real contradiction because obviously children and young people are supposed to be protected from their personal details being known to the public at large.

PHIL PARRY: At the appeal hearing Andrew's lawyers apply to preventing him being named and shamed, they said Andrew needed help and the publicity could damage his chances of being rehabilitated. But the council objected and the judge agreed they could go ahead with a leaflet identifying Andrew.

ANDREW'S MOTHER: We're just waiting on it coming out now, it should be out any time now, they normally take about 2-3 months to come to come out, so it should be out anytime now. But we did object to that because of his vulnerability, he's very small for his age. Leaflets going round, you don't know who's receiving these leaflets in these houses, we don't know half of the people ourselves so you don't know whose receiving them and looking at these pictures of these kids. I think ?? ?? 18 and under they should not have no right to publish their faces, the children at the end of the day until they're 18. When they're adults, that's a different view.

PHIL PARRY: When Panorama asked the council about naming and shaming Andrew, they said were not in fact going to issue a leaflet, that's despite them pursuing it in court. It was left to Panorama to inform the family that Andrew would not, after all, be named and shamed. Liam Scullion's interim ASBO was meant to be temporary but only now, 6 months later, is he finally going to court. Today is the first time his lawyers will be able to plead his case, that his ADHD lead to the assault and with this controlled by medication the ASBO should be lifted. His family believe, until now, he's been found guilty until proven innocent. But inside the court the magistrates hear that Liam's defence had not submitted his medical reports in time for the council to consider them.

What happened in there Barbara?

BARBARA: Well the case has been adjourned again till March 2006, which is quite a long time. I'm a bit disappointed.

PHIL PARRY: That will be almost a year after the interim ASBO was served.

BARBARA: Yes definitely and it just seems to be a long time now.

LIAM: I just want to try and get it over and done with now. It's getting on my nerves just waiting all the time.

PHIL PARRY: So in that year on the interim ASBO, what happens if he breaches the conditions?

BARBARA: If Liam breaks any of them it will be a criminal conviction then for him, which the judges told him today, not that Liam will break the ASBO, but I just feel it's putting a lot more strain and stress on the family as a whole.

PHIL PARRY: For Liam, the interim ASBO means if he does breach the conditions he could be jailed, even though a court might eventually find the order was not justified in the first place. The growing use of interims means hundreds of people in Manchester are now on ASBOs but still waiting to defend themselves in court. The government backed authorities which hand out high numbers of ASBOs and is examining how to speed up the process but it's hard to say whether they're working or not, there's no national measure of antisocial behaviour and only now, 7 years on, is the government conduction research into how effective ASBOs really are.

Prof AL AYNSLEY-GREEN, Children's Commissioner for England

At first glance there may be tremendous positive reaction from the community. They see the kids off the street and that maybe wonderful. I think it may just be sticking plaster over a serious issue and it's not giving sustained long term improvement in those localities. So I want much more information, much more research before we go very much further in applying what is actually a very powerful tool, which I'm not against in principal as long as it's appropriate, fair, proportionate and just.

HAZEL BLEARS MP, Home Office Minister

We're doing evaluation of antisocial behaviour orders at the moment. I certainly ask for some examination of the handful of cases that have caused difficulties. I don't want orders to be used inappropriately, I want the public to have faith and confidence in the police and in their local councils to use the powers that we've given them properly and appropriately to tackle what is undoubtedly a serious problem in many parts of our country.

PHIL PARRY: Andrew's mother believes the ASBO has been disastrous for him. He's a child who needed help and not a legal order with the threat of prison. She says that since the ASBO, his behaviour has got worse, he's been expelled from school and is currently receiving no education.

ANDREW'S MOTHER: These are still children even if they're on antisocial behaviours orders, they're still children. He is hard work and hold me hands up here, he is hard work and I wish he had been diagnosed a lot younger. He shouldn't be on one, he's got behavioural problems, how do you put him on a behavioural order, it's inevitable, he's going to fail, which he did.

PHIL PARRY: The government says the orders are popular, protecting communities from bullies and yobs. Many victims of antisocial behaviour would agree even if there is so far no research into the effectiveness of ASBOs. As the numbers issued continue to rise the fear is that without greater safeguards more vulnerable children like Andrew and Liam will find their lives damaged in the ASBO crackdown.

If you want to comment on tonight's program visit our website where you can also watch some recent Panoramas in broadband. Next week Tony Blair's wake up call to Europe, embrace reform or face long term decline. Alan Little travels the continent to find out if anyone in Europe is listening, The Battle for Europe, next Sunday 10.15.



SEE ALSO
ASBOs on trial
20 Nov 05 |  Panorama
Your comments
21 Nov 05 |  Panorama

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