'Name and shame should be the norm' on ASBOs

By Dominic Ponsford

Journalists’ power to “name and shame” youths subject to
anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) was strengthened this week by the
Home Office.

New guidelines sent out to police, councils and courts state:
“Publicity should be the norm rather than the exception. An individual
who is subject to an ASBO should understand that the community is
likely to learn about it.”

The Home Office has also recommended that photographs of people subject to ASBOs should be released to the media.

Home
Secretary Charles Clarke said: “Many offenders think they are
untouchable and above the law. If they think there would be a news
blackout on their actions, then they must now think again.

“Publicising
ASBOs has been tested in the courts and today we are making the
position crystal clear – your photo could be all over the local media,
your local community will know who you are, and breaching an ASBO could
land you in prison.”

Since they were introduced in 1999, some 4,000 ASBOs have been imposed.

They
are civil orders brought by courts or police to ban individuals, often
children, from certain areas and from doing certain things.

The Rotherham Advertiser is one newspaper that has encountered problems publicising ASBOs.

In
August, police twice refused to supply photographs of people convicted
of breaching ASBOs. At the time, editor Doug Melloy accused police of
“cooking up any old reason” not to release photos.

Also in
August, a court imposed an order preventing the Somerset County Gazette
naming a 17-year-old who was the subject of an ASBO.

Society of
Editors executive director Bob Satchwell said the Home Office
announcement was a “welcome reaffirmation of what ASBOs are all about”.

He said: “It is obvious they can only work if there is a maximum publicity.

The
only way you can make something anti-social is to publicise it – this
is where local and regional newspapers have a major contribution to
make.”

Rotherham Advertiser reporter Michael Upton, who has
covered a number of ASBO cases, said: “If this actually works and the
judges take notice, then it will help, but I will have to see what
evidence there is of that first.

“From my experience, judges tend to take ASBOs on a case-by-case basis.”

The full Home Office guidance on publicising ASBOs can be found at www.together.gov.uk.

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