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ASBOs

5.11.2005

ASBOs are an alluring piece of legislation. They are practically win-win for the politicos. We are about to inherit this legislation, like so much of our other policies from our British brethren,and should bear that in mind. As legislation goes this is a vote winner. Many estates around the country,(working class, commuter and middle class) are plagued by bad behaviour from their youths. Many stories of drunken vandalism assault and more are reprinted in the press and a general consensus of something must be done exists.
This something appears to take the form of an ASBO, anti-social behaviour order. These were pioneered by the former British Home Secretary David Blunkett. ASBOs have the wonderful affect of not being too distasteful to middle class voters and empowering Gardai to do arbitrary work requiring minimal intervention. In total a typical Mcdowell solution. Legislation can make everything better. Again with the treating us like automatons. ASBOs have been accused of making criminal charges provable on a civil basis. i.e. By loosely defining the criteria of qualification it is easy to ensure they are successfully attained.
These civil orders are meant to keep offenders out of the criminal justice system. Wonderful stuff indeed that the human rights group liberty in the UK has been very uncomfortable with the actuality of the laws:

"Most of the behaviour he talks about tackling is straightforwardly criminal - and it should be dealt with accordingly, by the police through the criminal courts."

"ASBOs don't do that. Instead, they subvert the criminal justice system by attempting to tackle criminal behaviour and impose criminal-level penalties through the civil courts - on the basis that someone has 'probably' committed the offence. It's a shortcut that undermines the quality of justice: that's no way to tackle these very real problems".

This is hardly a ringing endorsement for the legislation, but it goes much deeper than that. ASBOS require more than police to ensure proper enforcement. A guard is certainly within his duty to apply for one but the broader problem is that we need more community centric application of these orders. We need to become aware of problems teens, their habits and the causes of these habits. We cant just slap civil restraining orders on them. Such a solution is no more than a band aid. The community based approach means we have to get mentors, community groups and other organisations in on the implementation and policing of our communities. We must ensure that there is an alternative for these people to anti-social behaviour. We must take a holistic approach and offer infrastructural and local support to the affected communities and the offenders. If we don't offer support when they are apprehended then the ASBO merely becomes a stepping stone to the criminal justice system. Kids no longer grow out of these things.
The community employment schemes would have been just the tool to begin tackling community support structures. These things cost money and because we don't explain such things to the electorate it is money we are unwilling to pay. If we want a proper solution to anti social behaviour we need more than guards. We need educated, aware, capable local people taking an interest and giving guidance. They need to be back up by local infrastructure, youth clubs and other replacement activities for the current behaviour. We can get ourselves out of this mess. Legislation will help but unless McDowell breaks with trend and follows it with people and a change in attitude then we are likely to see the same mixed-bag of results in the UK. Community police work. They need money and training but they are worth it.
Anti social behaviour could begin the rebuilding of our social fabric and herald a more mutually interested society. A true civic society if you will. Actions speak louder than words. So people are better convinced by example rather than law. Labour have helpfully examined a community based solution as too have the Lib-Dems in the UK.
Red Rover

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