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Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 17:12 GMT
Majority of councils using Asbos
Asbos are being used to clamp down on offences like vandalism
All but four of Scotland's 32 councils used anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) last year, research has shown.

Argyll and Bute, East Dunbartonshire, Aberdeenshire and Clackmannanshire were the only councils not to make use of the orders.

The Scottish Executive said 23% of the orders were breached but admitted the figure could be higher due to confusion over the collection of data.

A total of 210 Asbos were granted last year, an increase of 42%.

Over the course of 2004/05, a total of 547 Asbos were in operation.

A survey of local authorities and Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) found that the highest Asbo rates were in Dumfries and Galloway, Stirling, Dundee, and the Borders.

Let us move forward from the argument that Asbos are a soft option
Hugh Henry
Deputy Justice Minister

It also showed that during 2004/05, 127 of the 547 Asbos in force were breached.

However, Scottish Court Service data showed 303 Asbo breaches.

The executive said that figure did not take into account multiple breaches of the same order.

The research also showed that Asbo applications were being prepared quicker by local authorities and RSLs than in previous years.

It also revealed that in the vast majority of breach cases further action was taken.

However, the research authors found that in some big urban areas with high rates of anti-social behaviour, there was relatively low use of Asbos.

Broken window
The use of Asbos by local councils varies across Scotland

They said this could be due to differing speeds at which councils and housing associations were gearing up to make full use of Asbo powers, unsympathetic sheriffs and some councils approaching anti-social behaviour by other means like mediation.

Asbos are increasingly being used against anti-social tenants, and a growing number of councils and landlords are using "acceptable behaviour contracts" as a precursor to Asbos.

Around a fifth of the Asbos granted in Scotland last year related to youngsters in the 16-18 age group.

There were 25 cases involving under 16s where Asbos were "actively considered".

Deputy Justice Minister Hugh Henry said: "I am pleased that Asbos are increasingly being seen as an appropriate and effective way of bringing respite to beleaguered communities," he said.

'Appropriate intervention'

"If someone is causing a nuisance, they must be dealt with by using the appropriate intervention at the appropriate time.

"An Asbo can provide respite for the wider community but it also gives that individual the opportunity to change their behaviour before problems escalate - before low level disorder becomes full blown offending, before a brush with the law becomes a life of crime."

He said the fact that more Asbos were being granted suggested that they were now seen as an important tool.

He accepted that Asbos were being breached but added: "That seldom happens with impunity."

Asbos are a short-term fix but not a long term solution
Kenny MacAskill

The minister said 96% of known Asbo breaches resulted in further action with more than half of them being reported to the procurator fiscal.

"Local authorities also report that over one in five proven breaches results in a custodial sentence," he said. "So let us move forward from the argument that Asbos are a soft option."

However, the SNP's justice spokesman Kenny MacAskill said: "Asbos are a short-term fix but not a long term solution.

"The public need to be protected and it is appropriate they are used to this end.

"However, we need to tackle the causes of the crime in the first place not just be tough on the crime itself."

Asbos were introduced in 1999 and the Anti-Social Behaviour Act, which came into force last year, introduced further powers.

See where Asbos are used across the country

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