Anti-social orders 'fail to curb teenage brothers' crime wave'

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The Independent Online

The leader of a council that successfully applied for anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) to stop two teenage brothers terrorising a seaside town is calling for the courts to be given greater powers to punish young offenders.

Mike Roe, the Conservative leader of North Somerset Council, said Ben and Robert White, aged 17 and 15 respectively, had caused "absolute mayhem" in Weston-super-Mare over the past few years.

Magistrates on Tuesday extended the orders banning the brothers from the town centre for another three years and widened the exclusion zone after the council described how they had been involved in 70 lawless acts since last May.

But Mr Roe feels the courts do not have the powers to punish the brothers sufficiently. "We believe that the Asbos have the potential to work, but the weak link is the courts system and the fact that they do not impose penalties in keeping with the offences," he said.

"The Home Office should look very seriously at this and give much firmer guidance to magistrates. When people are causing absolute mayhem in the community, then we are getting to the point when they need to be taken off our streets and put in secure accommodation.

"If they [the White brothers] were taken out of this environment, then perhaps it would be easier to educate them to behave more responsibly."

The White brothers were first banned from the town centre two years ago after police received a litany of complaints about their threatening and abusive behaviour. Robert was then aged 12 and the youngest person in the country to be subject to an Asbo.

However, North Somerset Council said the ban failed to correct their behaviour and the pair continued to cause trouble in the town, repeatedly flouting the ban.

A spokesman said the brothers had been linked to reports of 70 lawless incidents since last May alone, including complaints by shoppers and residents of offences such as harassment, intimidation, theft, violence and joyriding.

Clive Elliot, of the Victims of Crime Trust, said Asbos were failing "up and down the country" to tackle youth crime.

"The whole Asbo scheme is flawed," he said. "The Government thought they would be sufficient to give the public a sense of safety, but they are not strong enough; they're just a gimmick."