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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 March 2006, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Rise in Asbos prompts criticism
Police with yob
Asbos target drunkenness, violence and intimidation
The number of anti-social behaviour orders issued in England and Wales last year is set to reach a record high, according to Home Office figures.

In the first nine months of last year the number of Asbos issued was more than in the whole of 2004.

Home Office Minister Hazel Blears said the figures were extremely encouraging.

But children's charities warned almost half of all Asbos are issued against juveniles and said their use should be limited to "exceptional cases".

Both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives said Asbos have not been effective because many offenders breach them.

'Harrowing experience'

Between January and September last year judges used 2,679 Asbos, compared with 2,660 during the whole of 2004.

This brings the total number of Asbos issued from April 1999 to September 2005 to 7,356 - 43% of those being handed out to under-18s.

SEVEN YEARS OF ASBOS
Number of Asbos:
Apr 99 to May 00: 104
Jun to Dec 2000: 135
2001: 323
2002: 404
2003: 1,043
2004: 2,660
Jan to Sept 2005: 2,679
Source: Home Office

Greater Manchester has issued more Asbos than any other authority - 1,045 since 1999, which compares to Greater London (749), West Midlands (554) and West Yorkshire (520).

Describing anti-social behaviour as a "harrowing experience", Ms Blears said she was "extremely encouraged" by the "enthusiastic take-up" of Asbos.

"Today's statistics show that local authorities, the police and the courts are not hesitating to use Asbos to clamp down on the problem."

Asbos are not criminal penalties - they are civil court orders used to tackle behaviour that is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

Typical examples would be the noisy "neighbour from hell" banned from playing loud music at night, or the graffiti artist banned from a housing estate.

'Blunt tool'

But children's charities are worried that youngsters who repeat offences can be locked up too easily.

Martin Narey, of Barnardo's, said in some areas the use of Asbos on children was becoming "entirely routine".

Mr Narey, who is a former Home Office civil servant, said: "When Asbos were introduced the guidance was that they be used on children only in exceptional circumstances."

After issuing just 61 Asbos against children between 1999 and 2000, he said by 2004 there were more than 1,000 Asbos handed out to under-18s.

He labelled the orders a "blunt tool" and called on the government to publish fresh guidance on their use against children.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said Asbos could be a "useful weapon" if there were more police on the beat to enforce them.

The Lib Dems' Nick Clegg said Asbos should not be used as a "one-size-fits-all solution".


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
One man, formerly subject to an ASBO, on how he changed



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