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Wednesday, September 1, 1999 Published at 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK


UK

Court brands youths 'anti-social'

People who break anti-social behaviour orders can end up in prison

Two youths have become the first people in England and Wales to have controversial anti-social behaviour orders served against them.


BBC's James Helm: "If they break the orders they could face up to five years in prison"
In a landmark case, a Liverpool magistrate's court granted orders against two 17-year-olds under new laws designed to tackle so-called "neighbours from hell".

Liverpool City Council, which applied for the orders, accused the pair of committing criminal damage, loitering and intimidating residents in the Edge Hill area of the city.

Action against a third boy was dropped after successful mediation between the council and his family.


[ image: Liverpool magistrates: Ruling could open floodgates]
Liverpool magistrates: Ruling could open floodgates
The application by the council's special Anti-Social Behaviour Unit against the youths could open the way for a flood of similar requests from other councils.

The court ordered the youths not to enter two roads in the Edge Hill area; not to cause or attempt to cause criminal damage; not to spit in a public place; not to use threatening behaviour or behaviour which would cause alarm, distress or harassment to others and not to incite or encourage others to behave in that way.

One boy was also ordered not to urinate in public.

The court was shown videos of the boys with a claw hammer, climbing on roofs, throwing missiles, urinating in public, spitting and jumping on a car.

Their defence, David Woods, argued that they had not personally intimidated anyone, and said it would be better for them to be referred to social services.

Civil liberties groups have also complained that the anti-social behaviour orders, which came into force in April this year, could breach European human rights legislation.

John Wadham, director of Liberty, said: "Almost any behaviour will qualify for an offence ... excessive noise, failure to control children, or even complaining vigorously to neighbours are all possible examples."

But magistrate David Tapp said: "There is a lot of controversy about whether making orders contravenes human rights, but we all have human rights and everyone has the right to enjoy a quiet life and not be harassed and distressed by others' behaviour."

Liverpool city council welcomed the "landmark" ruling, saying it sent out "a clear message" that anti-social behaviour would not be tolerated.

Merseyside police added that the orders would prove "a valuable deterrent".

Harassment

Anti-social behaviour orders are aimed at curbing the behaviour of individuals likely to cause "harassment, alarm or distress to others".

They can be applied to anyone over the age of 10, although the target range is 12-17 years.

Only one anti-social behaviour order has been issued so far, against a woman from Dundee in Scotland who had been intimidating her neighbours.

The two 17 year olds are not being named while they consider whether to appeal against the ruling.

The orders are tailor-made for each individual and can be used to impose curfews or to send children as young as 12 to local council secure accommodation.

They are effective for two years. It is a criminal offence to break them and can result in a maximum jail term of five years.

The measure was introduced as part of the government's £63m campaign to stop young offenders developing into life-long criminals.



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