'Baby Asbo' proposal is derided as a gimmick

Click to follow

As the Prime Minister searches for further measures to combat antisocial behaviour, his officials are considering proposals such as forcing hard-core "neighbours from hell" to live in "sin bin" units guarded by security staff and monitored by CCTV.

Also under discussion is how to address yobbish behaviour by children who cannot be charged with an offence because they are under 10, the age of criminality. Options include a less harsh version of the Anti-Social Behaviour Orders which form a central plank of Mr Blair's campaign to restore "respect". Young children could be barred from abusing neighbours or entering an area where they have caused trouble. It is unclear whether these ideas will be included in a blueprint on antisocial behaviour published this year.

Phillip Noyes, the public policy director of the NSPCC, said the baby Asbo proposal was "deeply disturbing" and could do "more harm than good". He said: "Children who cause trouble can come from very troubled backgrounds. Their behaviour must be addressed in a way that meets their best interests."

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "With the legal age of criminal responsibility being 10, the Government needs to explain how the breach of such an Asbo could be punished. There is also a serious risk of stigmatising a child of such a young age, even without naming and shaming them." The idea "has all the hallmarks of an eye-catching initiative rather than a substantive proposal to tackle low-level crime" , he added.

Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "The battle to create a more respectful society will not be won with soundbites and gimmicks. These are complex social problems and it is time Labour started talking about tackling the causes not quick-fix solutions."

Asked about baby Asbos, Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Transport, told ITV's Jonathan Dimbleby programme yesterday: "There are many parts of the country where a lot of problems have been caused by surprisingly young children and we have to ask ourselves how do we deal with that.

"What we're doing at the moment is looking at the options available to us, in order to ensure that people do not have their lives disrupted or sometimes made a complete misery."

A Downing Street spokesman said: "We don't recognise these specific ideas. There is a consultation and discussion going on with the police about what additional powers they need."