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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 October, 2004, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Disorder measures hit the streets
The bill aims to make communities safer
The most controversial provisions of the Scottish Executive's new anti-social behaviour act have come into force.

The act of parliament gives the police powers to disperse groups of youths in designated trouble spots.

It also extends anti-social behaviour orders to younger children aged 12 to 15.

And it gives the courts powers to close down drinking dens or clubs where drugs have been discovered.

The anti-social behaviour measures were demanded by backbench Labour MSPs, under pressure from their constituents to put order and respect back into their communities.

Dispersal powers

They were pushed through parliament, despite considerable scepticism from the opposition parties, senior police officers and social workers.

Some argued that the legislation was unnecessary and may backfire.

But police are now be able to exercise the powers.

People on the housing estates will be waiting to see if forces do in fact impose "dispersal zones" or close down drink and drug dens.

The courts have been given new powers to penalise 12 to 15-year-old trouble makers.

Powers under this act, such as the dispersal of groups, will not be used unless a problem is serious and persistent
John Vine

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said it was now up to police and local authorities to make use of the new powers.

She said: "They have a responsibility to their communities to use them whenever and wherever appropriate.

"I will be looking to them to do just that - and I will be looking to communities themselves to ensure that the potential of these new powers are translated into action on the ground."

Ms Jamieson added: "Anti-social behaviour is a problem - but my message to hard-working people across the country is a positive one.

"Anti-social behaviour need not be tolerated. The law is on your side. The executive is on your side. Together, with your support, we can help deliver a safer, stronger Scotland."

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos) welcomed the new legislation but said the new powers would not be used "indiscriminately".

Police have been given more powers

Tayside Police Chief Constable and Acpos member John Vine said officers now had a range of options for dealing with persistent anti-social behaviour.

"I welcome this innovative approach but must stress that these new powers will not be used indiscriminately," he said.

"Instances of anti-social behaviour are assessed individually often in partnership with the relevant local authority and a tactic is selected that has both a good chance of success and which is proportionate to the problem.

"Powers under this act, such as the dispersal of groups, will not be used unless a problem is serious and persistent and where it is unlikely that other methods will be successful."

'Decent people'

However during a debate on housing, Conservative MSP Bill Aitken said that the lives of many people throughout Scotland are still being made a misery as a result of the behaviour of anti-social tenants.

He said: "The executive must carry a significant share of the blame for the fact that landlords are in many respects impotent to deal with those who disrupt and indeed make extremely unhappy those unfortunate enough to live beside them.

"The Housing (Scotland) Act not only makes it extremely difficult to evict rowdy and disruptive tenants but we have the bizarre situation whereby housing associations and local authorities are legally bound to rehouse those who have already been evicted by another housing provider.

"This is absolutely ludicrous and results in housing associations having to rehouse individuals who have frequently been evicted as a result of drug dealing, disorder and sometimes wilful fire-raising beside decent people who seek only to get on with their lives."

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02 Jun 03  |  Scotland


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