Thursday, 29 July 2010

Half a cheer

I've never been a fan of ASBOs. Like so much of what New Labour was about, they were, first and foremost, a gimmick. They played well with people who were experiencing real problems, and it is too easy for those of us who never liked them to forget those very real problems. But I was never convinced that they were particularly effective, and they often became something of a badge of honour in some circles.

In some cases, they were used to deal with behaviour which was actually criminal, as a substitute for using existing laws; and where they were used in cases of non-criminal behaviour, breaching them could lead to jail - in effect jailing people for something which was never a criminal offence in the first place.

So my first reaction to the announcement that they are to be killed off was positive. But the small print is missing, and I'd like to see it before getting too enthusiastic, since the Government seem to be talking not so much about abolishing them, as about replacing them. And they have yet to spell out how.

Talk of communities working with the police sounds all well and good; but that is nothing new; it happens to a great extent already. (Although it does involve the police spending a lot of time in liaison and discussion sessions. Given some of the other statements made by the Government, it's hard to believe that they're proposing more of that, but the bottom line is that 'working with communities' involves a serious commitment of time and resource.)

The other strand of what the Home Secretary said – 'giving the police the powers they need' – worries me rather more. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt until they spell it out; but my first reaction was that it sounds like ASBOs without the controls and checks provided by the courts etc. And that, applied to activities which are not criminal in the first place, would be a huge step backwards, not forward.

1 comment:

Siônnyn said...

I'm worried as well - ASBOS were a well intentioned, poorly thought out initiative. - And , incidentally, led to that most pythonesque of careers - And Anti Social Behaviour Co-ordinator! Best job since the Drug Tester fro the Welsh sports council (-try this john - what do you think?.

But this lot are piling initiatives that haven't been thought out at all!

The current thrust, taken to its logical conclusion, will lead to local militias - and it won't be long from that to enshrining the 'right to bear arms' into out unwritten constitution.

Time for Wales to take responsibility for its own judicial system!