This urgent call was made today by the Youth Justice Board as it published the first major independent study into how ABSOs are used on those under 18.
Researchers interviewed professionals and sentencers, young people and their parents, in 10 YOT areas to gain an insight into the effectiveness of ASBOs and to get the views and experiences of all involved. They found that:
- in seven out of the 10 areas examined, YOTs had little or no involvement in the decisions that led to an ASBO being imposed
- overuse of ASBOs can lead to many youngsters regarding them as a 'badge of honour'
- some orders were made for five years or longer - considered by many to be a long time in a young person's life, taking them from childhood into adulthood
- many young people did not understand the restrictions placed upon them, increasing the likelihood of breach
- some judges and magistrates are concerned that ASBOs are being overused because they require a lower level of evidence than criminal orders.
"Let me be clear - the YJB is not against Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. They can - and do - work incredibly well," said YJB Chairman, Professor Rod Morgan. "But for ASBOs to successfully reduce the likelihood of future anti-social behaviour, they need to be used correctly. That means exhausting every preventative measure in the community first, and ensuring that youth offending teams are not excluded from the ASBO process. Without YOT involvement, youngsters and their parents lack the support, advice and knowledge they need to ensure that they comply with their ASBOs."
Since the research was commissioned last year, the YJB, in partnership with the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), has issued guidance on the use of ABSOs on young people aged under the age of 18.
"The public must be protected from neighbourhood nuisance," said Morgan. "But for that to happen, ASBOs must be used correctly. Our guidance has already had a major impact on the way ASBOs are used but we are concerned that it is not used as widely as it should be. We are calling on the sentencers and the police to make sure that ASBOs are always used as a last resort.
"We are also calling for some fresh thinking to be injected into the youth justice debate and to look at alternatives which can lead to less crime, fewer victims and minimal use of ASBOs."