Don't damn young people

It’s easy to “pat MPs on the back” for backing the right of
newspapers to name and shame teenage offenders who are the subject of
anti-social behaviour orders (Editorial, 8 April).

But closer analysis suggests this is a knee-jerk reaction.

As
a civil law, ASBOs are subject to lesser standards of evidence than
criminal law, and, for example, accept hearsay evidence. As a result,
one in five young people who get an ASBO are criminalised who wouldn’t
otherwise have been. And breaching an ASBO is an offence on a par with
burglary.

ASBOs are expensive and biased against young people.
Figures obtained by Young People Now from the Home Office under the
Freedom of Information Act show that young people who breach ASBOs
serve longer prison terms than adults who breach.

Nearly half of
those who received custodial sentences for breaching orders in the
second half of 2003 went to prison for three to six months. But figures
for the next most likely jail term for breaching an order show that one
in three people aged 18 or over were jailed for under three months,
compared to six to nine months for under-18s.

Magistrates don’t
get specialist training on ASBOs, and the fact that about 97 per cent
of ASBOs applied for are granted suggests the thresholds used to impose
them are incredibly low. There’s a lot of poor practice out there.

Jumping on the “name and shame”

bandwagon
is tempting for editors and reporters, but the issues are more
complicated than they first appear and often result in an unfair
demonisation of young people.

Steve Barrett Editor, Young People Now

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