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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 19:53 GMT 20:53 UK
Report shows yob order gaps
Vandalism on an urban estate
Ministers say they are helping combat unruly behaviour
Too much red tape is one reason for large gaps in how powers to curb yobbish behaviour on English and Welsh streets are used, says a new report.

Anti-social behaviour orders, introduced in 1999, work successfully where they are implemented, according to the new Home Office study.

But unnecessary bureaucracy, excessive costs and delays are deterring some areas from implementing what the government see as a key weapon against unruly behaviour.

Known as Asbos, the orders are designed to prevent theft, intimidation, drunkenness, violence and other nuisance behaviour.

Rebuilding communities

Asbos, available to police and local councils, often bar people from entering a geographical area or shop and can include bans on specific acts, such as swearing in public.

Report author Siobhan Campbell concludes: "When used successfully, Asbos have managed to curb unruly behaviour and help rebuild the quality of life in communities."

Reasons for Asbos
Verbal abuse: 59%
Graffiti/criminal damage: 36%
Figures are for mentions in orders
But she points to the inconsistent use of the orders, with none at all in police areas like Cheshire, Essex, Wiltshire and Dyfed Powys, compared to the 65 implemented in the West Midlands.

"The pattern of use of Absos differs considerably throughout the country, with some areas prolific users whereas others have used little or none," says Ms Campbell.

The study found delays in the process were a "major concern", with some taking six months to get through the courts, with the average at 13 weeks.

Value for money?

Since their introduction three years ago, there have been 466 Asbos used, with a 5,350 average bill for the taxpayer.

Some local councils and police see that cost as value for money as it can save future spending on staffing, insurance claims and legal costs, says the study.

John Denham, Home Office Minister
John Denham says obtaining orders is being made easier
But the orders are not viewed as cost effective in other areas - usually they did not bring better behaviour.

Home Office Minister John Denham said the review showed Asbos were being used as "effective tools" to cut unruly behaviour in many areas.

"The best practice that exists around the country must be shared to assist those areas that are not yet using Asbos effectively," said Mr Denham.

More orders wanted

The Home Office was already taking action through its police reform plans to make the process easier, said the minister.

He added: "We are determined that even more communities will see real benefit from using Asbos.

"We want them to experience faster action against anti-social behaviour and see lasting change."

We need to find more flexible and practical means of reducing anti-social behaviour

Oliver Letwin
Conservative spokesman

Conservative shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said the orders were a good idea in principle.

"But the fact that fewer than 500 have been issued... testifies to the truth of what the police and others have been saying about them. Namely that they are excessively bureaucratic.

"We need to find more flexible and practical means of reducing anti-social behaviour."

The report was published on Tuesday as the government said landlords could be given new powers to evict unruly tenants.

Consultation on the new proposals will run for three months and the government says the plans will complement anti-social behaviour orders.

See also:

20 Mar 02 | England
Brothers in crime back on streets
06 Mar 02 | England
'Terror triplets' named and shamed
23 Aug 01 | UK
Youth justice: How it works
16 Mar 99 | UK Politics
Children targeted by anti-social order
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