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Anti-social Behaviour

Volume 497: debated on Tuesday 13 October 2009

I am today announcing a number of measures to step up action on anti-social behaviour.

Since this Government introduced ASBOs in 1998 there have been real changes in how people feel about ASB—17 per cent. of people felt that levels of ASB in their areas were high in 2008-09 compared to 21 per cent. in 2002-03. The tools and powers introduced by this Government over the last 11 years are working: the 2006 NAO report on anti-social behaviour found that 93 per cent. of people desisted from ASB after the third intervention. A significant package of practitioner support has also been provided including workshops, the ASB telephone ActionLine service and the ASB action website.

I am determined to ensure that we continue to improve our response; tackling, not tolerating ASB. Too many people continue to suffer at the hands of a small number of individuals intent on behaving anti-socially.

Today, I am announcing a package of measures to improve the collective response to ASB. Action will be stepped up on tackling breach, on ensuring that minimum service standards are in place locally and on providing more practical help to victims and witnesses of ASB.

Improving local ASB services is key. There is a comprehensive range of tools and powers that local agencies can use to tackle ASB. These must be utilised fully and we will provide training on civil powers to local practitioners and others involved in tackling ASB.

Alongside this, we will step up action on breach of ASBOs. ASBOs are designed to inhibit the behaviour of perpetrators and protect victims and so we must ensure that, once given, they are enforced and any breach dealt with appropriately. The Office for Criminal Justice reform will write shortly to LCJB chairs to ask them to assess how effectively breaches are being dealt with, seeking assurance that swift and appropriate action is being taken in all cases which we plan to back up with new guidance. There will be an expectation that information from the original ASBO case will be taken into account before sentencing of breach. This will include a community impact statement where there is one. We are currently piloting the use of community impact statements in cases when an ASBO has been breached with a view to rolling the scheme out nationally. We will also legislate shortly to make parenting orders mandatory in cases where a child breaches an ASBO.

Local areas will also be encouraged to set and publicise minimum service standards over the next six months so that the public will know what to expect. These standards will vary from area to area, but at a minimum should cover a commitment from partners to:

reduce perceptions of ASB year on year;

take reported cases of ASB seriously; recording, investigating and keeping victims informed of action taken;

provide regular information to residents on what action is being taken to tackle ASB;

offer support and practical help to victims of ASB;

ensure an effective link between neighbourhood policing and neighbourhood management;

provide residents with a right of complaint to CDRPs/CSPs if effective action is not taken by local agencies through existing channels.

Targeted support and challenge will be provided to areas where more than 25 per cent. of the population think anti-social behaviour is a big or very big problem. Over the next three months we will offer support and develop individual solutions to local problems in these areas, reflecting the varying forms that ASB can take.

Central to renewed action on ASB, is the need to improve services to victims. I have announced an extension of the funding in “Justice Seen Justice Done” pioneer areas, for new, local victims champions in the targeted areas. The role of the champions will be to promote the needs of ASB victims and coordinate local services to ensure victims receive the support and information they want and need. They will deliver a more intensive package in the areas where ASB perceptions are highest. We will also extend victim support services to all victims and witnesses of ASB in magistrates court and we will introduce a national training programme for ASB coordinators to improve their work.

This new set of measures will help improve the way local partners deal with anti-social behaviour. We must take concerted action now to get our response to ASB right. The perpetrators must face swift and appropriate action. And this must be delivered alongside adequate support for both victims, witnesses and the wider community. Local councils, the police, social landlords and other local partners must listen to their communities, understand their concerns and respond to them effectively.