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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 13:56 GMT
Disorder bill's proposals queried
Youth under arrest
The bill creates new ways to deal with young offenders
Key parts of the Scottish Executive's proposed crackdown on anti-social behaviour among young people have been criticised by a welfare group.

Witnesses from the Sacro organisation told a Holyrood committee that some of the measures proposed were unnecessary, and could even make the problem worse.

Some of the new provisions have already proved unpopular in England, they said.

Sacro said anti-social behaviour orders for under-16s were diverting police attention from more serious offences.

Community safety

The new Anti-Social Behaviour Bill has proved to be a controversial piece of legislation, with provisions that include extending tagging to under-16s, new police powers to disperse groups of people in trouble spots, parenting orders and extending anti-social behaviour orders to the under-16s.

Sacro was formerly the Scottish Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders.

It now stands for Safeguarding Communities - Reducing Offending, and it acts as a community safety organisation.

Holyrood's Justice 2 Committee heard from Sacro chief executive Susan Matheson and from Keith Simpson, the organisation's head of service development.

Mr Simpson told MSPs: "I think anti-social behaviour and criminal behaviour are confused in the proposals.

Our concern is that at best, they detract attention from what the real issues are
Keith Simpson

"There is criminal behaviour which is anti-social, and that should be dealt with by the criminal law.

"There is anti-social behaviour which is not criminal, and that should be dealt with by measures other than the law, including mediation.

"I don't think those distinctions are well spelt-out in all the proposals, and that is at the heart of our concerns."

The two Sacro witnesses said they had concerns in particular about extending anti-social behaviour orders to under-16s.

Serious behaviour

They were also concerned about the provisions giving police new powers to disperse groups and some aspects of proposed new community reparation orders and parenting orders.

Mr Simpson said Sacro agreed with many of the proposals and disagreed with "a small number" of proposals which had a central role in the bill, such as the dispersal of groups.

"Our concern is that at best they detract attention from what the real issues are.

"And at worst, they may aggravate the situation, turning attention to less serious behaviour when we should be focusing on more serious behaviour."

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