'Crimbos' replace Asbos – but will they rush children into custody?

 

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The Independent Online

The Home Secretary has provoked tensions in the Coalition by including powers to lock up children as young as 14 in a new regime of fast-track punishments to tackle anti-social behaviour.

Labour's system of Asbos is being swept away in moves designed to make it simpler and quicker for police to take action against groups of youths running riot and "nightmare neighbours". However, Theresa May has angered children's groups – and dismayed Liberal Democrat ministers – by retaining the controversial option of detention.

Asbos will be replaced by criminal behaviour orders – dubbed "Crimbos" – and crime prevention injunctions, which the Home Office says will be easier to enforce. The lower standard of proof means they can be put in place within days or even hours.

Under the proposals in a Home Office White Paper, repeated breaches of the new injunctions could "as a very last resort" result in those aged between 14 and 17 being ordered into custody.

"There is a real danger that the Government's proposals will unnecessarily fast-track children into a legal process which we know from experience is not successful at addressing the root causes of their behaviour," said Enver Solomon, chair of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "We know short prison sentences don't work. We would hope the Government sees sense and drops this disproportionate response."

In a concession to the Liberal Democrats, the Home Office has promised the proposal will not be implemented until it has been examined in detail by MPs.

Under the plans, residents will be able to force police to take action if five households make complaints or three separate incidents are reported. Pilot schemes will take place in Manchester, Brighton and Lincolnshire.

Law and disorder: Offences that earned an Asbo

Love-making

Caroline Cartwright said she and husband Steve used to have a healthy love life until council officials slapped an Asbo on her in 2010 for being too loud. Neighbours in Newcastle said their sex sessions sounded like "murder", drowning out their television sets. She has repeatedly breached the Asbo and was recently spared jail.

Putting up risqué signs

The landlord of The Swan With Two Necks got an Asbo in 2005 after he put up a sign in his car park calling it a "porking yard". Leroy Trought insisted the sign was a pun that recognised that the site in Bristol used to be a butcher's yard. But teachers and a local mosque complained. The council decided the sign was "racially and sexually offensive". It used a two-year Asbo to force him to take the sign down and undertake not to put it up again.

Free running

Free running is fast becoming one of Britain's most popular urban sports. Fearless adrenaline junkies use ordinary street objects to perform eye-catching stunts and feats. Derby council takes a different view. Two years ago, Tim Sheiff, one of Britain's top free runners, was threatened with an Asbo stopping him from using a primary school to practice.

Singing

James Ryan and Andrew Stevens might have avoided an Asbo had they known more than two songs. The pair were banned from playing their guitars after residents in Moseley, Birmingham, said they were driven mad by their constant renditions of Oasis' "Wonderwall" and George Michael's "Faith".

Setting up a pirate radio

There are plenty of Asbos out there banning people from certain streets. Kieran O'Sullivan is perhaps the only person banned from London's rooftops. He was given an Asbo forbidding him from going near any roof after he was caught installing pirate radio equipment on a block of flats in Camden, north London.

Begging

Although begging is not a crime, councils have used Asbos to clear people from their streets. Leonard Hockney, a homeless man, was given an Asbo banning him from begging in Manchester city centre. He was arrested several times for breaching his order and eventually died in prison.

Not paying a bill

Woe betide those who eat in a restaurant and refuse to pay. Alan Brown, from Blackpool, and Christopher Travis, from Lincoln, have each been banned from entering any licensed premises in England and Wales after repeatedly running away without paying for meals. Travis was recently jailed for breaching his order.