Thursday 27 July 2017

Gardai shun ASBOs as just three issued in last five years

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

GARDAI are shunning Anti-Social Behaviour Orders with just three issued to young tearaways in the last five years.

Garda sources said the ASBO system is too cumbersome and members of the force are instead opting to use the more straightforward Public Order Act when dealing with juvenile offenders.

ASBOs were first introduced for those aged between 12 and 18 years in March, 2007. However, since then only three orders have been made in the Children's Court.

Behaviour orders are the final step in a range of sanctions and are handed down when a young person has continued to misbehave after receiving an earlier warning from gardai.

In the past five years, 1,877 such warnings have been issued to young people.

Michael McLoughlin, a director with Youth Work Ireland, which assists with Garda Juvenile Diversion programmes, said ASBOs should now be abandoned and scarce resources concentrated on diversion programmes, which some studies show to have an 80pc success rate in directing delinquent youths away from a life of crime.

"We didn't think ASBOs were necessary and these figures show we were right. It's time to scrap them, they are dead in the water.

"ASBOs were of their time, when people were trying to show they were tough on law and order, but they haven't served any major benefit," he argued.

Mr McLoughlin said the Public Order Act was a better way of tackling young offenders and that ASBOs can lead to young people being criminalised by the back door.

Criminal

"It (Public Order Act) is more straightforward, it's a criminal offence and a person is guilty or not guilty. With ASBOs, the behaviour may not be criminal but if you break an order that is a criminal offence. ASBOs blur the lines between the two," he explained.

The Department of Justice said ASBOs are a final step and there are a range of other sanctions contained in the legislation which are taken before applying to the Children's Court for an order.

These include a warning by a member of the gardai, a good behaviour contract involving the child and his or her parents or a referral to a diversion programme.

Almost 13,000 young offenders took part in diversion programmes last year.

"In setting up the regime in the act, the intention was that the different interventions would address the problem behaviour.

"If they succeed, there would be no need to apply to the courts for an order," explained a department spokeswoman.

"It is only if they failed to lead to a behaviour adjustment by the person in question that a court order would be applied for," she added.

Irish Independent

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