[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 13 May, 2005, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Can new laws tackle bad behaviour?
By Joe Boyle
BBC News

New laws to tackle yobs and restore respect in society have been promised by Prime Minister Tony Blair. But will more legislation solve the problems, or just make them worse?

CCTV footage of anti-social behaviour
Asbos continue to be controversial

Some children's groups are worried more legislation means more attempts to control young people's behaviour.

Mr Blair's support for a controversial scheme banning hooded tops and baseball caps from the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent has done little to calm their fears.

Kathy Evans, policy director at the Children's Society, says attempts to enforce expectations about behaviour are part of the problem, not the solution.

"Respect is something that is earned. It is usually mutual and is a personal attribute, rather than something that can be legislated," she says.

Despite repeated attempts at cracking down on yob culture through anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) and fixed penalties for minor offences, she says most young people still do not even know what they are being told not to do.

"They feel like they are being told they should not act in certain ways, not do certain things, not go to certain places - that is hardly treating people with mutual respect."

Holistic approach

Ms Evans believes the best solution is dialogue between older people and the young. But do those who work with children deemed to have anti-social attitudes agree?

Jo Bryant, development manager with Learning Through Action which offers "holistic" courses involving role-play to tackle anti-social behaviour, agrees with the Children's Society.

These kids just don't understand political correctness, if they're doing something wrong, you've got to tell them
Patricia Stewart
Neighbourhood warden

"In our work we find that by respecting children and young people's feelings and thoughts, we can open up a dialogue where they are encouraged to consider how their actions affect others," she says.

"We look at prevention rather than cure - which means supporting children, and the people who surround them, early on in their personal development."

Others, however, are more supportive of the government.

Patricia Stewart runs a scheme for the Places for People housing association in Gorton, Manchester, where groups of young people behaving anti-socially are educated about their behaviour.

In her classes, youngsters are taught what constitutes anti-social behaviour and what consequences it has for the victims and the perpetrators.


She disagrees with the Children's Society on an important point: Asbos.

"I do believe Asbos work", she says, "but we need more schemes like ours where we just don't give up on young people - no matter what they do, we carry on talking to them".

She says over 900 young people have benefited from their work and puts the success down to directness and a lack of political correctness.

Most of the time I wear a hood just to keep my ears warm
Ben, 14, from Crawley

"These kids just don't understand political correctness. If they're doing something wrong, you've got to tell them.

"Then you've got to tell them that if they carry on, they'll end up with an Asbo."

But Ms Stewart does agree that dialogue between youngsters and older people is the most important thing.

So, what do young people think?

BBC's Newsround website asked readers what they thought of the decision to ban baseball caps and hooded tops at the Bluewater centre. From their e-mails, it seems most do not feel banning clothes helps the situation.

A 10-year-old correspondent named Lucy summed up the general feeling: "I don't think that hoodies should be banned because everywhere else you go something is banned. It's not fair for us kids."

Reflecting more practical considerations, 14-year-old Ben from Crawley added: "Most of the time I wear a hood just to keep my ears warm."

See how Farnborough police deal with under-age drinking

Asbowatch IV: Behind the mask
02 Feb 05 |  Magazine
'We're not all hooligans'
13 Oct 04 |  UK


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific