The newly formed Coalition Against ASBOs outlined its opposition, today, Wednesday to the plans by the Fianna Fail/PD Government to introduce Anti Social Behaviour Orders. The Coalition is a campaigning alliance of organisations and individuals concerned about the proposed introduction of anti social behaviour orders in our communities.
Speaking at a press conference in Buswells, held immediately following the Coalition's briefing of TDs and Senators in Leinster House, Matt Foot a leading expert on Anti Social Behaviour Orders in the UK warned against the proposed introduction of anti social behaviour orders in Ireland. (An Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) is a civil order made by the court and based upon a balance of probabilities that the person has engaged in behaviour causing 'harassment, alarm and distress'.)
"Behaviour likely to cause 'harassment, alarm or distress' is capable of including everyone from serious criminals to people whose appearance makes us feel uneasy, said Matt Foot Coordinator of ASBO Concern in the UK. An order made on this basis is arbitrary, has no regard for the normal legal process, and doesn't deal with the causes of antisocial behaviour in the first place, " said Foot.
"Evidence from the UK demonstrates that ASBOs are being abused in some areas. This is due in large part to the frightening vagueness of the definition. In many incidents, individuals are receiving a custodial sentence where the original offence was not itself imprisonable. The ASBO is clearly therefore, moving offenders up tariff and resulting in the inappropriate use of custody," said Foot.
"This is a knee jerk reaction rather than a considered attempt to tackle juvenile crime", said Geoffrey Shannon, Irish Child Law Expert and Solicitor. "We need to stop panicking and behave responsibly when discussing crime and anti social behaviour."
"Anti social behaviour can be tackled using the wide range of measures available under the Children Act 2001 and through support services based in local communities," said Shannon.
"To be successful however, we must fully implement and resource the Children Act and resource existing support services. ASBOs are an unnecessary and counterproductive addition to the current framework for dealing with children in conflict with the law," Shannon continued.
Members of the Coalition Against ASBOs include: Children's Rights Alliance, National Youth Council of Ireland, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Barnardos, Irish Youth Foundation, ISPCC, Irish Penal Reform Trust, Amnesty International (Irish Section), Comhlamh, The Ark, ICON Inner City Organisations Network, Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, Sugradh, DICP/LTDF, Arrupe Society, Irish Refugee Council, Irish Traveller Movement, Pavee Point, Union of Students of Ireland, Integrating Ireland, Community Policing Forum N.E.I.C., Bluebell Youth Project, Cabra Youth Service, Kilbarrack Community Project, Swan Youth Project, Rialto Youth Project, Finglas Youth Reach Centre, Solicitors Geoffrey Shannon, Sarah Molloy, Catherine Ghent, Ursula Kilkelly, Pol O Murchu, Leonora Mullett, Barristers: Teresa Blake, Mary Ellen Ring, Aisling Reidy, Ivana Bacik, Individuals, Father Peter McVerry SJ, Louise Cadwell, John Nisbet, Paul O'Mahony , Seamus Kinlen.