Anti Social behaviour: Jack straw's way ... with A COURT ORDER - Life and Style - The Independent

Anti Social behaviour: Jack straw's way ... with A COURT ORDER

Three days after they were banned from Highgate Street in Liverpool, the two youths served with anti-social behaviour orders are still present in spirit and by proxy. Their names, painted in vivid graffiti, claim the territory. Meanwhile, four of their mates lazily patrolled the glass- strewn pavements and verges with a menace residents say is undiminished since the magistrate's landmark decision.

The two 17-year-olds last week became the first juveniles dealt with under powers introduced by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, to punish behaviour likely to cause "harassment, alarm or distress". They are banned for two years from Highgate Street and Hellsby Street, and may be jailed for up to five years if caught spitting, urinating or causing criminal damage anywhere in Liverpool.

Most residents in the Chatsworth area tell stories which confirm impressions of the boys' behaviour, captured by a covert camcorder and shown in court. A mother said she stopped her eight-year-old son playing outside because she feared he would be hurt by the boys. Another said they swore at passers- by, glared through windows, and casually vandalised open space on Hellsby Street.

Gerard Murdern, head of Liverpool's pioneering anti-social behaviour unit, said the orders were a triumph for people in fear of disorder. The council may now seek further exclusion zones or curfews for up to eight of 60 people being investigated by the team of social workers, education officers and police.

The exclusion orders are only the latest in an armoury of devices designed to deal with such delinquent behaviour. More than 130 other cases have been dealt with by mediation, court injunctions or eviction from council properties since the unit was established two years ago. "The orders against these two have been misinterpreted as a last resort," Mr Murdern said. "But eviction is usually the last resort."

Sometimes the mere threat of eviction is enough. "We filmed a gang in Speke threatening people, trashing empty houses and kicking cars," Mr Murdern said. "Then we invited their parents to a showing of the video, and told them they faced eviction. Anti-social behaviour stopped."

But the strategy has critics - the boys' parents, their lawyer, and even some Chatsworth residents. The parents' objection is that the powers are formidable, perhaps excessive, and aimed erratically. Neither of the excluded youths, who live outside the exclusion zone, their families say, was a truant. Both are immature, but found jobs after leaving school with GCSEs. They have not been in trouble with the police, their families are unknown to social services, and neighbours are petitioning to get the orders quashed.

"The first I knew my son was in trouble," said a mother of one of the boys, "was when a man came to the door, handed me an envelope and said: 'See you in court'. If we'd received a complaint about him, he would have been barred from going out."

The lawyer's objection is to the quality of the evidence. Under Jack Straw's new law, anti-social behaviour orders can be imposed on a balance of probabilities, not proof beyond reasonable doubt.

The 20 minutes of video evidence against the youths is ambiguous. In the video one boy urinates in a side street. They throw stones at a building site. Mostly they sit sharing a cigarette. They are forbidden to smoke at home. The most compelling footage shows them jumping on a wrecked car that four younger children had set alight.

That was enough. "We had to concede that jumping on the car was anti- social behaviour," David Woods, the youths' solicitor, said. He believes Mr Straw's powers give scope for unfair convictions, based on anonymous hearsay and inconclusive videos shot by private investigators. "Now two boys of previous good behaviour could go to prison for behaviour that's not even a criminal offence."

Local people have another reservation: whether the right people have been targeted. The Chatsworth area has more than its fair share of "neighbours from hell", and many local residents support Jack Straw's new measures - in theory at least.

"The trouble is the two they got weren't the ringleaders," a man on Highgate Street said, gesturing to the convicted youths' four friends who still hung around the area with an intimidating air. "You take two off the street, and there are others substituting. It's the parents who should be in the dock. If you're in bed all day, you don't care if your kids aren't in school."

Residents have petitioned the authorities, without success, for the eviction of one violent family which has 17 children. "The ones I'm frightened of weren't in court; they've just walked by," a pensioner said. Yet back at Liverpool's anti-social behaviour unit, Mr Murdern is confident that Jack Straw's new scheme can produce results. "This first case took five months because we attempted mediation first. In future, it could be weeks, not months."

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

    Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

    £26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

    Retail Business Analyst

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

    Senior C++ Developer

    £400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week