Saturday 25 May 2019

Youth group wants human rights body to monitor ASBOs

Grainne Cunningham

Controversial measure should be used as 'absolute last resort'

ASBOs, the controversial measures to deal with anti-social behaviour, come into force on New Year's Day.

The measures will allow senior gardai to apply to the courts for a civil ruling prohibiting certain behaviour by a particular person.

The ASBOs come into operation for adults only on New Year's Day and for children, aged 12 to 18, on March 1.

But last night a youth organisation said ASBOs should be independently monitored by the Human Rights Commission.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell said yesterday that the orders had the potential to be of real and practical benefit to society.

"Apart from the menace of career criminals involved in drug and gun crime, there is also concern about lower level anti-social behaviour causing serious interference in the lives of people, especially those most vulnerable in our communities," he added.

Offending behaviour is defined as action causing harassment or significant or persistent alarm, distress, fear or intimidation to another person.

Only senior gardai may apply for ASBOs and the courts will then decide if such an order is reasonable and proportionate. The orders will operate for a maximum of two years.

Last night, a spokesman for Youth Work Ireland called for ASBOs to be monitored independently by an organisation such as the Human Rights Commission.

The organisation, which was among those which campaigned against the new measures, said the Ombudsman for Children should have a leading role in the process - but was restricted by a legislative prohibition on receiving complaints against gardai.

"Despite the fact that ASBOs have been substantially watered down, we still believe many people are concerned about them and their impact on young people in particular," said Michael McLoughlin.

"It is important therefore that a body independent of the Government and the gardai can oversee their introduction. Many young people unfortunately do not have faith in the gardai in specific areas and ASBOs could be used in an inappropriate way.

"ASBOs still represent a dangerous blurring of the criminal and civil law, allowing the authorities to potentially bring criminal proceedings against somebody who has not committed a criminal offence in the real sense of the word," Mr McLoughlin warned.

He added that while there have been some welcome reforms of ASBOs, they should only be used as an absolute last resort.

"Society needs independent reassurance that this is how they will be used, unlike in the UK where they have further alienated a substantial number of young people."

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News