Naming and shaming aids enforcement of ASBOs

By David Rose

MPs have backed the right of newspapers to name and shame teenage
offenders who are made the subject of anti-social behaviour orders
(ASBOs).

An influential cross-party watchdog committee of MPs has rejected
arguments by children’s charity Barnardos, the Metropolitan Police and
others that criticised the present practice, which allows an offender
to be identified unless a court decides otherwise.

The
recommendation from the home affairs select committee will find favour
with the Government. Home Office minister Hazel Blears told the MPs
that publicity was crucial for community confidence.

“People who
get anti-social behaviour orders should know that if they behave like
that the community is likely to be informed,” the minister told the
committee when she gave evidence.

Critics, however, argued that
naming and shaming was inconsistent with the treatment of other young
people convicted of a criminal offence, where a presumption in favour
of reporting restrictions applied.

The Children’s Society also said the practice made it easy for paedophiles to target potentially vulnerable children.

Barnardos
said the presumption should be against publicising details unless the
magistrate or judge ruled it was in the public interest to do so.

Sergeant
Paul Dunn, ASB team leader, Metropolitan Police Service, said in
evidence that he had a “sour taste in my mouth” when he read in a free
paper on the tube that a 13-yearold with no previous convictions had
been banned from every restaurant in Leeds.

“Let us control who gets to see and hear of these news stories,” he said.

But
the MPs sided with Blears, who assured them: “If there are good reasons
for not having publicity, then the courts always have the power to
impose reporting restrictions.”

She said the Home Office looked to the community to enforce anti-social behaviour orders.

“If
they see someone breaching their condition, and their condition is not
to go into that area or into a certain set of shops or not to carry out
certain behaviour, I want the community to be telling the neighbourhood
beat officer exactly what is going on so that police officer can then
enforce the order.”

In its report, the committee said concerns and issues of child safety could be raised in court.

But
otherwise it said: “We conclude that naming and shaming is often
essential to enforce ASBOs and accept that, with a free press, it is
not possible to limit publicity to local communities.”

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