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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006, 10:59 GMT
Half of Asbo holders breach order
A 'hard core' of offenders repeatedly breached Asbos
About half of all anti-social behaviour orders given out in England and Wales have been breached, according to two reports published on Thursday.

The Home Office said 47% were breached by the end of 2005. A National Audit Office study puts the figure at 55%.

Orders were breached by people committing offences or by breaking their Asbo terms, such as by going to places where they are banned.

But the government said the findings did not mean Asbos were failing.

The NAO, which analysed 1,000 cases dating from 1999 to April 2006, said 35% of Asbo holders had breached their order five or more times.

Warning letters

One person had done so 25 times, but the average number of breaches was four per person.

There was a "hard core" who carried on with anti-social behaviour no matter what measures were taken.

Greater Manchester - 1,237
Greater London - 1,172
West Midlands - 787
West Yorkshire - 696
Lancashire - 362
Source: Home Office

The NAO looked at the impact of three of the most common interventions used to stop anti-social behaviour: warning letters from the police, costing 63 to administer; acceptable behaviour contracts; and Asbos, which cost more than 3,000.

About two-thirds of people who received letters or acceptable behaviour contracts did not misbehave again.

The NAO also said the cost of responding to reports of anti-social behaviour in England and Wales was about 3.4bn per year.

'Action needed'

Its head, Sir John Bourn, said "more action" was needed against hard-core offenders who breached Asbos, such as "more preventive measures to tackle the causes of anti-social behaviour".

The strategy of carpeting the country in Asbos and demonising thousands of young people was always far too blunt a tool
Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrats

The Home Office figures show there were 4,060 Asbos issued in 2005 - a rise of 18% on 2004.

The Home Office said 47% of Asbo holders since 1999 had breached their orders - with the rate rising to 57% among juveniles.

Matt Foot, coordinator of Asbo Concern, told BBC Five Live the system was "setting people up to breach the Asbo".

He said: "They go into prison. They come out. They breach it again. And that is what's happening in this country - we have five to 10 young people every week going into custody for breach of Asbos. It's an extremely expensive process."

But Home Office minister Tony McNulty said: "I don't accept a breach of an Asbo is the failure of an Asbo.

"Where breaches are reported it means that individuals are being monitored, that communities feel confident enough to report them and, let's be clear, if an offender breaches his or her order, there will be serious consequences, and rightly so."

He added that the report showed intervention, by all three methods, was "bringing relief to neighbourhoods across the country."

Mr McNulty told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "People can't have it both ways, accusing us of criminalising a whole generation and throwing Asbos down like confetti - which we aren't doing - and also being soft."

'Not properly enforced'

Edward Leigh, chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, said the Home Office needed to reinforce the message that breaching Asbos was "unacceptable and it will not be tolerated".

He added: "We are not talking about high jinks from a few mischievous youngsters - we are talking about yobs whose persistent criminal activity, intimidation and plain disregard for others are making our city centres a no-go area."

Shadow home secretary David Davis said Asbos could be a "real weapon against crime if they were properly enforced but these figures show that is not the case".

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said: "The strategy of carpeting the country in Asbos and demonising thousands of young people was always far too blunt a tool to deal with the complexities of anti-social behaviour."

Recent research by the Youth Justice Board found similar results and the study said that Asbos had become a "badge of honour" among young people.

Asbos graphic

CCTV footage showing acts of anti-social behaviour

Blair hits back over 'baby Asbos'
05 Sep 06 |  UK Politics

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