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Last Updated: Monday, 19 July, 2004, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
Asbos 'to criminalise youngsters'
Burglary
There are fears Asbos will target more than criminals
Government plans to extend the use of anti-social behaviour orders have angered youth workers, who say there is no evidence they are effective.

Asbos criminalise youngsters, without tackling "root behaviour", they say.

Children's Society policy director Kathy Evans told BBC News Online: "Youngsters being stigmatised as being the problem, is a problem in itself."

And National Youth Agency development officer Bill Badham accused ministers of "stoking the fear of crime".

This fear was being used to justify an extension of powers that would "criminalise young people for non-criminal activity", he told BBC News Online.

Ms Evans added: "Many youngsters do have behavioural problems that need to be addressed - but there is no evidence anti-social behaviour orders make any difference."

For many young people hanging around on the streets with their friends is their best choice option
Children's Society policy director Kathy Evans

And what Asbos failed to do was "drill down to the real issues", which could relate to young people's schools, homes or families.

For many youngsters who behave badly the problems are "contextual", Ms Evans told BBC News Online.

"It often comes down to a lack of anything else to do.

"For many young people hanging around on the streets with their friends is their best choice option."

The answer, according to Ms Evans, is to give youngsters "a sense of ownership and participation in their communities".

Youth projects

"The vast majority of young people do not misbehave in these ways, are much more likely to be the victims of crime, and want to contribute to the solution.

"Where young people are involved, there is a difference in their response to their communities and their sense of belonging."

Ms Evans welcomed government plans to invest more money in youth projects.

The punishment for breaching an Asbo is quite severe - you can go to prison for five years, and that makes it a deterrent that can't be ignored
Nottingham City Council

And she urged ministers to "improve the quality of life for communities by investing in them, and allowing them to take control of how their communities are improved".

By its own admission, Nottingham City Council is "one of local authorities that has made most use of Asbos".

A spokesman told BBC News Online: "They are the only power we have to stop local communities being affected by anti-social behaviour.

"The punishment for breaching an Asbo is quite severe - you can go to prison for five years, and that makes it a deterrent that can't be ignored.

"They are never made lightly, and always as a last resort - but we will continue to use them where it is appropriate to do so.

"It is about giving the wider community the opportunity to lead a quiet life."




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