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Just six Asbos have been issued to louts in past three years

Just three adults have been issued with Asbos since the orders were introduced three years ago.

New Department of Justice figures reveal that only six anti-social behaviour orders have been issued in total since the scheme was introduced for adults in January 2007 and children in March of the same year.

Three of these were "behaviour orders" to children and the remaining were "civil orders" issued to adults.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has confirmed that 1,461 "behaviour warnings" were issued to adults and 1,103 to children up to January 31 last.

An Asbo is a civil order issued by a court against an individual who has been shown to have engaged in anti-social behaviour. Prior to their introduction, the Fianna Fail-PD Government flagged Asbos as a solution to communities struggling with drug problems.

But the low numbers of orders issued suggest that judges, while happy to issue warnings, are reluctant to issue full-blown Asbos.

For an adult to get an Asbo, they must first have been officially warned about their behaviour by a garda, after which a court can issue an Asbo.

In the case of children, a warning is issued by gardai to the child, and/or a good behaviour order. Children can then be referred to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme, before a behaviour order is made in the Children's Court. It has been claimed that gardai are dealing with anti-social behaviour under the force's Youth Diversion Programme, rather than the Asbo system.

Fine Gael has claimed Asbos are too cumbersome to tackle the problem of juvenile crime, citing the lengthy three-stage process that a juvenile offender must go through before an order is issued.

The opposition has also suggested that the scheme may be delayed due to the insufficient number of juvenile liaison officers.