It is time to move beyond ASBOs
The Home Secretary is right to say ‘it is time to move beyond ASBOs’.
There is no doubt that since their introduction, ASBOs have changed thinking. Unacceptable behaviour that previously went unpunished is now taken far more seriously. With the emphasis moving from criminal prosecution to making culprits more responsible in the community, the result can be more effective action. I know of several cases where ASBOs have resulted in an effective resolution for the victims and culprits alike.
However, there have been too many cases where a serious matter has had to go too far down the line before an ASBO could be implemented.
To get an ASBO often involves various agencies coordinating over months to prepare a case. When it gets to court, there can be further delays and adjournments. Even when an ASBO has been put in place, it can be seen as a 'badge of honour'. Indeed in a typical year more than half of ASBOs are breached, and offenders continue to reap havoc.
So it is time to improve options, but with less political posturing and more effective policing.
Measures like Acceptable Behaviour Contracts have proved quicker, cheaper and less bureaucratic. Best of all, they are better designed for nipping problems in the bud.
Ideas like Community Justice Panels have helped actually change offenders' behaviour - so we don't just punish one crime, but prevent future crimes too.
Cutting re-offending must surely be the top priority and ASBOs too often failed that test.