Irish Penal Reform Trust

Howard League for Penal Reform calls for the abolition of Anti Social Behaviour Orders for children

22nd September 2004

The Howard League for Penal Reform today called for the abolition of anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) for children.  The charity said that when ASBOs were introduced it was intended would rarely be used against young people - but children have become the focus of the orders.

In its submission to the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into anti social behaviour the Howard League for Penal Reform suggested that to tackle anti-social behaviour resources should be put into activities for children that engage them in positive and constructive ways rather than using ASBOs that isolate, exclude and stigmatise them.

ASBOs exacerbate social exclusion, compound problems; and increase social tension.

Some local authorities are putting children at risk by publishing leaflets with the names and photographs of children alleged to be involved in anti-social behaviour.

Excessive and inappropriate use of ASBOs has resulted in significant numbers of children being imprisoned, and the order contravenes the government's commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Nuisance behaviour by children has been criminalised for if a child breaches an ASBO they may end up in prison for behaviour such as littering or spitting in the street.

Speaking today, Frances Crook, Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said

"The Howard League for Penal Reform believes that the government is obsessed with low level anti-social behaviour by children.  This legislation damages children and their communities, but it also distorts the efforts that can be put into dealing with and preventing more serious crimes that have a greater social cost. 

"Using anti-social behaviour legislation on children is a nasty political trick.  The government is seen to be doing something - but the real challenges are left unmet.  So much more could be achieved if the resources were used in a positive way to engage with children and provide services for those who feel they have nowhere to go and that nobody wants them."

© Howard League for Penal Reform

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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