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The politics of 'proper behaviour'

Mark Easton | 12:41 UK time, Tuesday, 29 September 2009

It seems there is a big red button marked "ASB" at Labour HQ. The sign next to it reads: "In case of electoral emergency, press here".

No surprise that Gordon Brown is today thumping the anti-social behaviour (ASB) button with a mallet. It is a tactic which been instrumental in Labour's success for more than a decade.

Asbos in headlinesEven though many Brownites had previously sniffed at a policy they regarded as punitive and populist, needs must. A Blairite invention has been wheeled to the frontline for the fightback.

Anti-social behaviour was once a phrase confined to academia, but Tony Blair took the concept out of psychology lecture halls and made it mainstream politics.

As shadow home secretary in the early 1990s, Blair met the residents of problem estates near his home in Hackney. He realised that millions of potential Labour voters were turned off the party because they thought it didn't understand the realities of crime and disorder in their daily lives.

Law and order was seen as a Conservative issue - but Blair determined to mount a surprise raid on enemy territory.

When I interviewed Jack Straw a couple of years ago, he recalled the day senior party figures were told of Blair's plans:

"I remember Tony coming to shadow cabinet and saying: 'We are going to change'. And then he tried to get going what has now become a famous phrase about 'tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime'."

Initially there was scepticism. Instinctively, the party saw a crackdown on anti-social behaviour as an attack on the working classes. But Tony Blair won them round and convinced members that being "tough" could be a socialist cause.

Internal polling showed the party that Blair had touched a real nerve. The public was hugely enthusiastic and on the back of its landslide victory, almost the first legislation Labour passed was the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Within its pages, the Asbo was born.

Crime and Disorder Act 1998Anti-social behaviour was defined in the act as behaving:

" a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as himself."

Suddenly, non-criminal activities which might previously have been seen as nuisance, mischief, selfishness or just bad manners were enshrined in statute and subject to action from the state through courts and police.

Actions within the definition included harassment, verbal abuse, noise nuisance, writing graffiti and smoking or drinking alcohol while under age.

Not included, despite being the most commonly cited examples of ASB in an early Home Office study, were "speeding traffic" and "illegally/inconveniently parked cars".

It seemed clear that the real targets for action were rowdy teenagers, not selfish or dangerous drivers.

Having defined the problem, the Home Office set about quantifying it and concluded in a "one day count" in 2003 that there had been 66,107 reports of ASB across 24 hours. This equates to 1.5 million incidents per year.

Some have argued that New Labour manufactured a social crisis to justify its draconian response. But voters were highly appreciative of the new Asbo powers and from a slow start, courts up and down the country began issuing the new orders in their thousands. By 2005, magistrates were slapping them on 80 people a day (although Labour's hopes that 5,000 be issued each year were never realised).

Tony Blair again pressed the ASB button during the 2005 election campaign and, at the party conference later in the year, suggested his third consecutive election victory was down, in part, to his approach to anti-social behaviour. He told his party:

"Respect is about more than crime. It's about the loss of a value which is a necessary part of any strong community: proper behaviour; good conduct; the unselfish notion that the other person matters."

His argument seemed to be that it was now the job of the state to try and get people to be nice to each other.

Echoing the "Broken Britain" slogan his political opponents were busy honing, he talked of the "break up of traditional communities and family structures" and how the "bonds of cohesion have been loosened".

Blair's conclusion was this:

"For eight years, I have battered the criminal justice system to get it to change. And it was only when we started to introduce special ASB laws, we really made a difference."

However, among the very academics from whom New Labour had borrowed the anti-social behaviour concept came voices that suggested the whole approach was questionable.

One critic, Andrew Ashworth, professor of law at Oxford University and chairman of the Sentencing Advisory Panel, argued that in introducing the Asbo, government "intended to sail as close to the wind as possible" with regard to human rights legislation.

The point was that while Asbos were civil rather than criminal orders (they can be issued on the basis of hearsay evidence and, on occasion, without the recipient being present), breach of the order was a criminal offence which could lead to five years' imprisonment.

Given that most ASBOs are breached, according to the National Audit Office, it has been argued that the orders have effectively criminalised thousands of people who may never have been convicted of any other crime.

It has been calculated from Youth Justice Board statistics that 12% of youngsters in custody are locked up for breaching a court order including Asbos.

Whatever misgivings there might be about human rights in this context, they cut little mustard in contemporary British politics. Expect David Cameron and the Conservatives to thump their own version of the ASB button next week under the "Broken Britain" banner.

The criminal justice system has never been very good at dealing with chronic low-level crime and the Asbo provided a tool for communities and courts to deal with troublesome activities.

"The system itself is the problem," Tony Blair told the 2005 Labour conference. "Our primary duty should be to allow law-abiding people to live in safety. It means a complete change of thinking. It doesn't mean abandoning human rights. It means deciding whose come first."

It appears that we have decisively moved into an era when enforcing "proper behaviour" is the business of the state.


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  • 1. At 1:06pm on 29 Sep 2009, CComment wrote:

    Labour has been in power for 12 years and presided over a massive increase in anti-social behaviour - so why should we believe they're going to fix the problem now ? Caledonian Comment

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  • 2. At 1:14pm on 29 Sep 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Id like to hit him with a big red button ...
    they have just relesed 5 billion in extra funding for organised crime WTF is he ranting for hes got his with a disorderly UK.

    Wake up Mr Brown and smell the Weed

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  • 3. At 1:32pm on 29 Sep 2009, Ernie wrote:

    I believe ASBOs are a horrible miscarriage of legislation.

    They allow anyone to be prevented from doing any arbitrary behaviour, subject to criminal proceedings if they are broken.

    They effectively criminalise pretty much anything the judge feels like. This is not a fair, balanced, blind justice system; it's a massive encroachment on liberty.

    (Also yes, labour have failed and ought to get out of the way so someone else can have a go, preferably without the nanny-statism and massive overspend)

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  • 4. At 1:43pm on 29 Sep 2009, stanilic wrote:

    This should be subtitled whatever became of Laura Norder?

    When will the political class understand that social behaviour has to be managed by the civil community with only the state acting as a facilitator where there are recalcitrant groups or individuals?

    For decades the civil community in Britain has ben subjected to assault upon assault by an interfering busybody state whose only interest has been to foist its own elite opinions upon society at large whilst at the same time as removing police constables from off the street.

    All that has happened is that social control and discipline has been moved away from society in the faint hope that a politically correct state can cure delinquency through legal argument.

    You can't cure delinquency but you can stop it happening in the first place by encouraging standards of better behaviour. You won't achieve that through either issuing ASBOs or putting people up in court as by then it is too late.

    Individuals who disturb the local community need to be carpeted by that community and confronted by their victims. If there is not that catharthis for both the community and the individual then there is no prospect of addressing low level social disicpline. The big stick needs to be kept for the real bad ones but then employed fast and furiously so that cause and effect are understood by all.

    At the moment nothing is working as nobody in authority really cares other than for their salary and pension.

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  • 5. At 1:51pm on 29 Sep 2009, nottoonear wrote:

    But there is no crackdown, is there? Lots of political hot air, no police action, lots of paper but no enforcement. No real solution for people who live in daily fear and stress.

    Adults if they take any kind of action end up dead, seriously injured or accused of violence.

    Far, far easier to dream up ridiculous laws, with meaningless terminology that no-one is quite sure what it means, and that causes fairly ordinary people to unknowingly break the law.

    Was I wrong to take my neice, her best friend and younger brother out for the day this summer with parental consent, while their parents worked? How do I get myself vetted if I no longer live in Britain? Would it really be better to leave them home alone, each in their own house? It means nothing the children have known the adults all their lives and the adults each other for more than 40 years?

    Only thing getting thumped with a mallet is common sense.

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  • 6. At 2:04pm on 29 Sep 2009, Batcow wrote:

    Difficult as it may seem, I think that politicians can make a difference to ASB. Thatcher persuaded the British people that selfishness and greed were good, and that thinking of others was loser behavior. If there’s no such thing as society then what chance does the community have? There must have been a hole there in the wall, when we came in.

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  • 7. At 2:16pm on 29 Sep 2009, knowURexits wrote:

    This government, and previous governments, have proceeded to allow society values to degrade. Now they say "no longer will they allow the lives of the well behaved masses be blighted by the disruptive few". Disruption THEY allowed! They will achieve this by implementing draconian laws and regulations on EVERYONE. They have already turned Britain into the most spied on western country, with CCTV, tracking cameras and databases to log and store as much information on every individual as possible.
    This is is a clear case of "problem, reaction, solution". Wake up people only the stupid allow themselves to be fooled by the controlled manipulation central governments use to condition the desired responses.
    Anti social behaviour can be controlled by restoring power to the family, respect your elders and responsibility and consequence for your actions. NOT, by more cameras, more laws, more central government control and Tasers for every cop.

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  • 8. At 2:33pm on 29 Sep 2009, watriler wrote:

    Gesture at the symptoms, dither at the causes. ASB is a cultural thing it is produced by the breakdown in families and communities and the obssession with possessions and individualism - the last two so admired by Margaret (there's no society) Thatcher. It also reflects the failure to provide proper education and recreation facilities and above all sufficient resources to manage and regulate large areas of housing which are to all intents and purposes defined by police as no-go emergencies only areas. Asbos facilitate the introduction of mainly young working class people to the state punitive system where many are taught to be efficient criminals. Now we are to get G Brown continuing to dig in this deepening hole of social malaise.

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  • 9. At 2:39pm on 29 Sep 2009, ronreagan wrote:

    This subject is a COMPLETE RED HERRING - there were / are plenty laws in force to ensure that this type of behaviour can be dealt with. It is a convenient sound bite to cover a total inability to guard, watch, and patrol our streets, by the Police who have been sucked into P.C. over the last 12 years.

    As for Clown bringing it up again - words fail me.

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  • 10. At 2:51pm on 29 Sep 2009, Sage Vals wrote:

    I suspect that this problem of low level crime/anit-social behaviour has been around longer than most would care to remember.

    What makes it problematical these days, as compared to say 30 years ago, is that:
    1) Not enough police on the street to deter the problem.
    2) Police not being able to give the proverbial "clip round the ear".
    3) Too much paperwork involved for the police to bother with such "minor" problems.
    4) Too many parents not caring enough to do anything about their childrens actions, even if the police do become involved. Quite often, this lack of parental concern is down right denial - "My Billy wouldn't do that. How dare you suggest he did!".

    Next, in the past, if Granny was being intimidated by local thugs, then she could rely on her son/son-in-law/grandson to come round and give the wrong-doers a bloody nose (or threaten to). This doesn't work today either as:

    1) Young male relative probably lives miles away.
    2) He would be the one arrested if he did take action (or threaten to), not the thug, with Granny also arrested for conspiracy.
    3) Knowing the above, the thugs would not be scared off by the threat of said relative turning up.

    Whats the solution? Change the law on self defence to allow adults to act directly to take action to defend themselves, their extended families and their property from hurt or damage, including verbal abuse.

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  • 11. At 2:51pm on 29 Sep 2009, constantchange wrote:

    This is sad and embarrasing for a (socalled) labour party. In my home country Austria kind of a similar development occurred, soon after Haider (a right wing populist) gained some power in the late 90ies and thereafter. His senseless attitude of blaming certain areas of the population made him popular, especially amongst rural voters, and the spineless main-parties picked up this kind of attitude and political behaviour, just for the sake of being voted.
    Since then the level of sophistication, true intent and actual helpful changes has declined so steeply, that it will take ages or a miraculous person in politics to change it back. Looks the UK is heading in a similar direction, I dont think the Torries will be any better.

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  • 12. At 3:00pm on 29 Sep 2009, FellowCuckoo wrote:

    Blair may have taken up the anti-social behaviour issue but he also promised us "joined up government". As in granting licenses for 24hr drinking while the Dept of Health tells us all to drink less. Or bringing in the Human Rights Act and then fettering teachers so that 7 year olds cry "I know my rights" as soon as an adult attempts to stop them misbehaving. Encouraging volunteering but only if we don't mind being put on the potential paedophile database. I could go on ...

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  • 13. At 4:44pm on 29 Sep 2009, ronsblog wrote:

    Perhaps we have got we deserve, we have all played a part in arriving at a situation where "rights" trump "responsibilities", an increasing liberal society that fails to see the part power plays in relationships or simply won't accept it.

    Parents who can't or don't know how to control or discipline their children.
    Many of those parents products of emotionally/socially/educationally deprived parents themselves, an ongoing cycle of ignorance.
    Lack of family structure/ single parents.
    A benefits system that rewards "bad" behaviour and which tends to be frequently expolited on so many levels/issues
    Teachers unable to exercise discipline in any meaningful way.
    A human rights Act that has been interpreted by Lawyers in many cases at the expense of civil society, the individual over the group.
    Yes, Yes and everything else alluded to by all the other comments.

    Part of the answer is about policing but unfortunately they appear to wrapped up in their own issues, namely;

    Police Services are increasingly driven by targets, increased infiltration of academics who whilst bright and well meaning are detached from the realities of day to day policing carried out by PC's on the street but through whom has been introduced increased bureaucracies/systems/processes and ultimately paperwork,a promotion culture at the cost of getting the job done, a flight of Officers away from front line policing duties which are seen by most as unappealing given the difficulties that policing anti social behaviour raises, over emphasis on Specialist crime units that in large part work in silo's and are far from joined up. An inexperienced pool of senior managers who have spent a lot of time pursuing promotion given the way it is structured in most forces and who, as such, have limited actual policing experience. A lack of trust in police that has led to increased paperwork to justify actions and a severe lack of support from the wider press and other influences in society.
    The police do need to re-focus how they go about addressing this issue and using what are quite extensive powers.

    But it is more than that it is about all of us addressing what we do in relation to this issue, it is about challenging bad behaviour and I know that is risky but it is the only way that people learn, it is about education effected early on, a curriculum that includes "emotional intelligence". Learning to trust the police - restoring a sense of respect in authority, respect of adults by children generally, curbing a media culture that on many occasions promotes bad behaviour and a lack of respect.
    I know we think it is not our responsibility but if we want the Groups Rights realised, if we want to effect a change then that is what has to be done. It is similar to the environmental issue, we all have a part to play however minor we think it is it is a necessary and essential part.

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  • 14. At 4:48pm on 29 Sep 2009, MisterGC wrote:

    Much has been made of the rise of individuality as a cause of the erosion of society - another way of looking at it is the idea that when social groups lost the 'ulimate sanction' - of expulsion leading to poverty or even starvation - then they lost the power to police themselves.

    In the not too distant past if someone was 'sent to Coventry' or lost their position in polite society then they faced a downward spiral, so people obeyed the rules and towed the line.

    Universal benefits and legislation that ensures all appointment procedures are open and above board and free from nepotism - have meant that losing the support or respect of your peers is much less important. So as society has lost this power the state has had to step in.

    I would not for one minute suggest that we should return to a Dickensian society, but our leaders have failed to find a balance that stops increasing wealth and rights paradoxicaly leading to an increasingly controlled state. In fact they have not even had a debate about it - I see no difference in the Tories and it saddens me that the, presumably, random group of individuals who have responded to this blog seem more sophisticated in their arguments than our whole political class.

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  • 15. At 4:50pm on 29 Sep 2009, 1967Ross wrote:

    The fact that New Labour were talking about ASB as a problem in 1997 and are still talking about it as a problem in 2009, shows that their policies to tackle ASB haven't worked.

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  • 16. At 4:55pm on 29 Sep 2009, hmann09 wrote:

    We do not live in a more violent society than ever before, Britain is not broken. Sensationalised press accounts and band wagoning make the problems seem much worse than they are. For some interesting stats on the subject check out this ted talk from steven pinker

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  • 17. At 4:56pm on 29 Sep 2009, Peter Galbavy wrote:

    You can't legislate respect. ASBOs are intended to be a way for our self-styled betters to "dare" the peasants to cross a line and pretend it's about raising standards. It's all about confrontation and division. Never in recent history has a government used subtle and not so subtle methods to divide the population so that we hate and disrespect each other - in the hope that we don't notice how corrupt, greedy and criminal the ruling party is.

    The recent expenses leaks and resulting scandal is only the tip of a very massive iceberg. We used to think the Tories were corrupt (think Tebbit going to work for BT after privatisation) but they were rank amateurs.

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  • 18. At 5:09pm on 29 Sep 2009, nottoonear wrote:

    'Mr Brown began his speech by telling Labour members they were "the fighters and believers who change the world - we have changed the world before and we are going to do it again".'

    He really has a problem with this WORLD stage thingy. We don't want him.

    Please do not let him escape from the island. The kids here are fine, the local police keep things running and turn up instantly when you phone them, we all know who we can trust. And we're allowed to be human beings.

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  • 19. At 5:40pm on 29 Sep 2009, Gergiev wrote:

    So you are suggesting that the discussion about ASBOs that has arisen over the past few days has nothing whatsoever to do with the mother and daughter effectively bullied to death by yobs recently, and the negligence of the authorities in protecting the weak that this exposes? Whatever the rights and wrongs of ASBOs there remains among the likes of BBC journalists and lawyers and legislators and other members of the political and media classes an acute disregard for the hardships faced by more vulnerable members of our society when faced with anti-social elements within their own communities. There is a tendency to down-play the concerns of such little people, using instead terms like "right-wing" or "reactionary" or even "fascist" to denigrate, belittle or demonize them, even suggesting, as here, that the effect of such behaviour is really no worse than that of a badly-parked car. If events like those suffered by that poor woman and her daughter happened in the leafier parts of North London one suspects that one would hear a different tune. It is no wonder that the so-called "left-wing" no longer represent the working-class of this country.

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  • 20. At 5:40pm on 29 Sep 2009, HugeNose wrote:

    Number 13 ronsblog has it right. In the past, ASB was controlled by the trust between the public and the local policeman, and the memory of both. The public and the local bobby being well aware of patterns, repeat offences, and so on. The punishment was a clip round the ear and non-specific threats of "trouble" for you, repeated as often as you like for repeat offenders, and for very minor but persistent nuisances.

    Nowadays, the policeman on the street cannot do this, so an ASBO is meant to replace the local bobby/teacher knowing "he's a wrong'un" and "he's done this too many times now" and lead to proper judicial control. The ASBO and the process leading to it is meant to be a subsitite for the local bobby's memory, the public's memory, and the trust between the police and the public.

    But of course it doesn't work because the new process is cumbersome, full of paperwork, can be appealed (in court! rather than by a heartfelt apology), and because everyone "knows their rights" there is no middle ground for slight offences.

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  • 21. At 5:45pm on 29 Sep 2009, watriler wrote:

    Just a minute why is ASB only confronted when it concerns (mainly) unemployed youths living on council estates harassing and abusing neighbours?

    We are forgetting the Giga ASB's of the pin striped thugs and wide boys in the city, loan sharks, pension fraudsters etc.

    All these are capable of and have achieved making the lives of large numbers of ordinary citizens miserable.

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  • 22. At 5:57pm on 29 Sep 2009, The_judge_of_it wrote:

    Disclaimer: it's the ideas I'm attacking, not the writer.

    1) To say that harassment, verbal abuse and other nuisance types represent "non-criminal activities" really highlights the pervasive point of view that leniency = good, discipline = evil, and the blurred morals of Western society.

    2) To say that New Labour has used a "draconian response" is simply amazing. Has New Labour ever done something that could be called draconian? You can't seriously believe that ASBO is anything more than a bad joke. "Draconian" would be saying, for example, "anyone found carrying a weapon will be sentenced to 10 years of jail" or some such.

    3) There is a simple solution to anti-social behaviour, one that will cost nothing and will work in 90% of cases, it is called corporal punishment. Yes, there is nothing sacred about the body and it is not cruel to use moderate corporal punishment. Why don't we use it? Why do politicians have such a mental block? What is more important, to avoid a little sting at all costs, or to have well-behaved citizens?

    4) You say that we have entered an era where the state enforces proper behaviour. Are you saying that in the past, when 100% of schools used caning for misbehaviour, the state wasn't enforcing proper behaviour?

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  • 23. At 6:16pm on 29 Sep 2009, John1948 wrote:

    I was reading the history of a small village between Bath and Bristol. There are lots of reports over the centuries of ASB by the inhabitants of those two cities and by locals too. So ASB is not something new.

    What is new is the total lack of respect that is often placed on the young and 'problem families'. This blame should not be placed on these easily identified groups. Some of the contributors to this and more especially NIck Robinson's blog need to shoulder some of the blame. Our political leaders and editors need to accept some of the blame too. To many there is not much difference between the public mocking of Gordon Brown or David Cameron for their beliefs and actions and mocking a disabled person. Whether the attacks are justified or not is totally irrelavant because they are demonstrating that a public show of disrespect makes you important and worse still is acceptable. Millions watch X Factor and to a lesser extent SCD just to hear the insulting way comments are delivered by the judges. Jeering culture is alive and well throughout our green and pleasant land so it is hardly surprising that some will take such actions to extremes.

    While this is unacceptable, what is more unacceptable is that very little is being done about it. It starts in the home, it starts at school, it starts on the TV and Radio, it starts how people talk to each other in public. Once that is in place and only then can you have meaningful action to deal with those who are still antisocial.

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  • 24. At 6:27pm on 29 Sep 2009, circlingthedrain wrote:


    Margaret Thatcher may (or may not) have promoted a 'greed is good' ethos, but largely the only people who really took it to heart were the City.

    In the wider country, though, it was the Labour party who were telling people it was OK to ignore legislation they didn't like, to 'smash the system' and not to bother working at school because there wouldn't be a job for them (and how right they were, now they have no qualifications).

    There are two ways of addressing the ASB problem (as any social problem) - carrot and stick. The stick will be messy and probably expensive, as you have to stand up to and fight those creating the ASB. This may mean more police, more prisons, etc. The carrot - trying to improve parenting skills and changing the attitudes of children before they start to get into this type of behaviour could be cheaper. However, it will take 20 years before you see any benefit from it. There is a massive lag in effect as you won't really see the impact until the children of those in the gangs today are themselves grown up (if then).

    So, which is it to be?

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  • 25. At 6:33pm on 29 Sep 2009, carlsviews wrote:

    While the concept of an ASBO sounded reasonable, in principle, breach of an ASBO becomes a criminal matter, as has already been referred to by others. What Labour did not do, however, was to ensure that there were enough places available in custody for those who breached ASBOs or the other 3000 laws/regulations this government has brought in. As a consequence, few people went to prison/youth custody as a result of breach and the ASBO became discredited, particularly amongst the young, some of whom saw it as a badge of honour, which gave them kudos amongst their mates.
    Even if anyone breaching an ASBO did get sent to prison, despite the strong discouragement from the Home Office to the Courts they, like even much more serious lawbreakers, burglars etc., are released after only half the sentence has been served due to the serious overcrowding of prisons. The deterrent effect of custody is diminished and, apart from a few first time offenders who are rightly shocked by being locked up, most of those released, commit offences again fairly soon after release without any rehabilitation or addressing of their literacy/numeracy deficiencies etc.
    The unintended consequences of laws passed without thought of the likely effects has meant that Judges and Magistrates (who deal with over 95% of all offences) are frustrated. They feel unable to deal with cases before them in what they believe is a just manner or to protect the community from those who make their lives a misery by their behaviour. Belated prison building will not help in the short term and with our present financial problems, I doubt that significant money will be found any time soon to assist the educational deficit of prisoners, rehabilitation, or to fund enough prison cells to alleviate the overcrowding.

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  • 26. At 6:57pm on 29 Sep 2009, Brian_NE37 wrote:

    > It appears that we have decisively moved into an era when enforcing "proper behaviour" is the business of the state.
    Whilst I'm not a a Labour voter, it seems to me that, in the absence of the societal pressures which historically came from being part of a 'community', the politically correct developments over the last decades that mean (ASBOs apart) that 'nuisances' have to be treated with kid gloves and the influence of the media and modern communications developments in showing miscreants that they can get away with bad behaviour, the involvement of the state is an unfortunate necessity ...

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  • 27. At 6:59pm on 29 Sep 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    politics and proper behaviour don't belong in the same sentence do they in this day and age?.

    Ill be glad to see this bunch go tough on crime and its causes I hope as many people as possible vote lib Dem even if they end up on a power share with the conservatives there drug policies will bring about a sharp fall in so called ASB.

    #25 "I doubt that significant money will be found any time soon to assist the educational deficit of prisoners, rehabilitation, or to fund enough prison cells to alleviate the overcrowding. "

    No this government would rather line the pockets of as they would put it
    "child smuggling pot growing criminals" by increasing profit on the crops these smuggled children grow for there Chinese over-sears, while they amuse our children with mixed drug messages. Respect were RESPECT is due.

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  • 28. At 7:02pm on 29 Sep 2009, Doctor Bob wrote:

    "You can't cure delinquency but you can stop it happening in the first place by encouraging standards of better behaviour. You won't achieve that through either issuing ASBOs or putting people up in court as by then it is too late.

    Individuals who disturb the local community need to be carpeted by that community and confronted by their victims. If there is not that catharthis for both the community and the individual then there is no prospect of addressing low level social disicpline. The big stick needs to be kept for the real bad ones but then employed fast and furiously so that cause and effect are understood by all."

    Great sounding stuff but if it were possible it would have happened. Fact is, it didn't. Who in the community has the time and resource to go around in a vigilante group to deal with these gangs? Wouldn't that community be exposed to the risk of criminal procedings. Sure, I'd love to have some of these thugs in the town square and give them a thorough flogging but who's going to join me? I'll bet no one.

    So, get your feet back on the ground and lets talk about more and tougher prisons - prisons as in some parts of the Middle East - so that inmates would go out of their way never to re-offend.

    How many members of the community have been stabbed or otherwise attacked, or subjected to endless terror because they decided to intervene? And guess what, if you protect yourself and your home you're likely to become the culprit when the police get to you.

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  • 29. At 7:07pm on 29 Sep 2009, Zydeco wrote:

    22. At 5:57pm on 29 Sep 2009, The_judge_of_it wrote:

    2) To say that New Labour has used a "draconian response" is simply amazing. Has New Labour ever done something that could be called draconian? You can't seriously believe that ASBO is anything more than a bad joke. "Draconian" would be saying, for example, "anyone found carrying a weapon will be sentenced to 10 years of jail" or some such.

    It doesn't matter what 'draconian' measures there are, they are not enforced. The penalty for carrying a knife - not using it - is 5 years inside. Most carriers get of with a caution.
    Why is this? I believe it is so the crime doesn't show up on the statistics and therefore a 'reduction' in knife crime is achieved.

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  • 30. At 7:26pm on 29 Sep 2009, MrZigster wrote:

    I couldn't believe this quote from Superindent Steve Harrod, Head of Criminal Justice for Leicestershire Police, giving evidence at the Pilkington inquest:
    “From a police point of view, what we want to do with any criminals is to prevent reoffending. From my personal experience, if a juvenile goes into detention, they are likely to mix with like-minded people during their time there and they are more likely to reoffend. I think for new police officers this is all part of their training and for older officers there is a transition. But once you recognise that if you go to charge, and then the offenders come out of prison, you see them in the cells again and again.”
    So, can we infer from this that the police feel it is more important to stop criminals reoffending than it is to protect the wellbeing of decent civilians like the Pilkingtons? We shouldn't go to charge in case little Jonny reoffends again?
    Well, I'm sorry Superintendent, but if the prison system is not working as a deterrent, then surely the answer is to make the prison system a deterrent, not to stop sending criminals to prison.
    As a couple of (ex) police aquaintances have stated to me, "Prison works. While the criminals are in jail, they are not on the streets commiting crime".
    Surely, by the time the juveniles Mr Harrod is talking about are facing detention, they will have already had numerous soft touch punishments/warnings/cautions/yellow cards/red cards/on the spot fines etc. If they haven't deterred said juvenile from offending yet again then what is the next logical step? Jail maybe?
    Isn't it a fairly good bet that they are already associating with a bad lot of "like-minded people"?
    Do we want our Police Officers to be trained as Police Officers or Social Workers?
    We all make mistakes as high spirited youngsters, but if you are not prepared to learn from them then maybe you should suffer the consequences.

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  • 31. At 7:47pm on 29 Sep 2009, srlclark wrote:

    That "there is no such thing as society" was a slightly illjudged remark, but it didn't have the implications that too many commentators have invented for themselves: it didn't mean, for example, that we have no responsibilities to each other, nor that sociology has no subject matter, nor that it was right to be greedy and selfish. MT said it in an interview back in 1987 (see, and her point was simply that though we had a duty to care for others, it should be remembered that it was not some grand "SOCIETY" that had the duty, but our neighbours and fellow citizens: "There is no such thing as society. There is [a] living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate."

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  • 32. At 8:17pm on 29 Sep 2009, DenisHayes wrote:

    We have a new choir member, an ex-police officer. He told me that he was SO relieved to be out of the Force. "Too much paperwork, too many regulations. It's impossible. I'd hate to be doing the job now", he sighed, and started singing like a nightingale...

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  • 33. At 8:20pm on 29 Sep 2009, Fingertapper wrote:

    Wouldn't argue with much of what has been said.
    Once is youthful exhuberance, twice is stupidity but three four and five onwards are the signs of incorrigible criminal tendancies.
    Recently our local neck of the woods saw the eventual jailing after twenty odd years of binding overs, probations, supervision orders, suspended sentences - anything but serious jail - of two characters who - independently of each other - were criminals by their early teens. Both were "rewarded" with money and privileges by the youth justice system for their malfeasances. Both continued to offend - anonymously as juveniles, less so once they turned eighteen. It was all "low level" stuff - burglaries, bag snatching, fights, etc but God knows how many people have had their lives damaged in the meantime.
    We don't need more asbos or fancy initiatives. We just need a secure depository for the repeat miscreants in our society. I don't necessarily want them hanged flogged or humiliated. I might accept the rehabilitation and eventual release of a one-time murderer. It's the repeat muggers, burglars and shoplifters we need taken off the streets for years at a stretch. If they eventually come out and still re-offend then put them back in until they are effectively in for their natural lives.
    However this country has a maximum jail population (of all security levels, including Open Prisons)of around 78K or therabouts. To expand this capacity we either have to pay more for new jails (unlikely in the present climate) or stack more in the existing jails. This isn't going to happen so long as HM Inspector of Prisons is around and our human rights legislation continues to conform to the ECHR. Dave was talking about changing this but it's all gone a bit quiet over there.

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  • 34. At 8:53pm on 29 Sep 2009, TallyHo wrote:

    When few parents have grown up themselves — thanks to benefits and the nanny state — why should we expect them to instill grown up civilized behaviour in their offspring?

    Those which are trying the independent route by working (gasp) are so flat out paying off their mortgages, council tax, ever-increasing transport costs, energy bills, childcare bills, they barely have the energy to swat a fly — let alone intervene in their feral children's behaviour.

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  • 35. At 01:13am on 30 Sep 2009, rees_jones-jones wrote:

    bravo Boilerbill @ 23.

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  • 36. At 03:59am on 30 Sep 2009, tarquin wrote:

    "It appears that we have decisively moved into an era when enforcing "proper behaviour" is the business of the state."

    So true, Mark

    The thing that I find most disturbing is that as you say, the ASBO is a civil matter, caused in many cases by innocuous things such as a dog barking (see daily mail for typical examples) - yet to break one is a criminal offence, it's making the rule of law a joke

    and of course remember, where there is ASB that should be considered criminal (eg graffiti) - it probably already is, it's just a quick way round due process

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  • 37. At 05:57am on 30 Sep 2009, Dave H wrote:

    Looking at that definition: " a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as himself."

    I reckon most government ministers have managed to do at least one of those to me in the past twelve years. Perhaps I can get an ASBO served on them to stop them being so stupid and wasteful?

    Icing on the cake is the recent fiasco about childcare. That has undoubtedly distressed many people, and I would hope that there's a unanimous two-fingered gesture in the direction of Westminster as everyone carries on as before and ignores them. Roll on the election.

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  • 38. At 10:51am on 30 Sep 2009, stanilic wrote:

    28 atrisse

    My argument does have its feet on the ground: it is what used to happen.

    Just after the war there was a group of yobboes harrassing women and youngsters in my home town. There was a lot of that sort of thing going on at the time as a consequence of the disruption of war. A group of locals - former commandos, paratroopers, guardsmen etcetera - got together and sorted it. Vigilantism? Arguably. But it was the ordinary people taking control and Mr.Plod had the sense to look the other way.

    I do not condone this behaviour but I have had to stand up to yobbery in my own neighbourhood and I have put the fear of God into the brutes by the simple process of standing up to them and defying their arrogance. Then when their parents come round to threaten me I still stand my ground. Of course they threaten me with the police but I am content in my action as I have broken no law whilst they have. These people are nothing more than bullies and you can only deal with bullies by standing up to them. I accept that not everyone is like me, but I am more than happy to help others deal with this issue.

    What is needed is a local committee elected by the community who will summon the offenders to a simple court set up in the local community hall. They and their families will face their neighbours who show them what they did and how they damaged the lives of others. This is the condemnation of their peers; it is if anything a public humiliation. They won't like it but once the message is delivered it will correct most of the misbehaviour as this is everyone else showing them how to behave properly. If they refuse to participate or continue with their behaviour then fine: they can then face the magistrates and the full force of the law not the soggy, soppy meaningless ASBO.

    Social discipline belongs to society, not the state. We must take it back.

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  • 39. At 12:04pm on 30 Sep 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    MrZigster wrote:
    "Prison works. While the criminals are in jail, they are not on the streets commiting crime".

    Possibly the most short sighted comment I've ever read on here.

    Sending someone to prison for a minor civil offence, such as a breach of an ASBO only serves to turn low level civil offenders into high-risk criminal offenders.

    Speak to anyone who works in the prison & probationary services and they'll tell you that many young people who should have been dealt with outside of the prison system go in as occasional shop-lifters and come out as trained bank-robbers.
    All that is served by sending low level offenders to prison is that they end up becoming hardened criminals who are far, far more likely to re-offend.

    You can't take away what these people have done but you can try your best to ensure they don't repeat their mistakes or end up escalating their criminal behaviour.

    Prisons are now so overcrowded and under funded that rehabilitation is a joke, the root cause of the individuals problems are never dealt with so the end up coming out worse than when they went in and all we are achieving is an increase in criminality and the pain, misery and loss that is associated with this.

    You can bang on about being tough on criminals all you want but all of the evidence from around the world shows that the harsher you treat criminals once they have been caught, the more problems you create in the future when they're eventually released. While keeping them in prison indefinitely costs huge amounts of money that could be better spent on rehabilitation, education & training.

    Proper preventative and rehabilitation services are far more important in preventing crime and have a much greater effect than simply locking people up.

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  • 40. At 1:20pm on 30 Sep 2009, GavinH wrote:

    We now live in a world where an underclass " society live in sink estates throughout the country,where the kids are feral and bordering on illiterate.The problem is that the kids' parents and grandparents were brough up the same -basically unemployable and living on the State.
    But this situation has been on going for decades and conveniently ignored by politicians and public servants alike.
    Why should the politicians worry-the people who live in this environment never have or will vote.
    Ian Duncan Smith is the first politician in years to identify this as an issue and of course lambasted by the Labour party for sharing his findings with the general public but he is right to identify that this current situation is probably the most important "social " issue that need to be addressed today.
    But is no quick fix-it going to have to rely on focussed groups in collaboration with the police,schools, social services and employment services IN the estates helping to enhance the residents status in society.
    So second half a dozen council houses and convert them into a couple of police stations where the police can live in residents with their wife's and kids.Convert a couple to social services offices and create a day care centre where medical staff can operate.
    Everybody will say that we can't afford it but if crime is reduced and even 30% of residents come off benefit and go to work the the social benefits would be profound.

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  • 41. At 1:44pm on 30 Sep 2009, The_judge_of_it wrote:

    #39 "the harsher you treat criminals once they have been caught, the more problems you create in the future"

    Singapore treats all its criminals very harshly. That city is probably the safest in the world. How does that compute with your statement?

    Please do give links to your "all of the evidence from around the world".

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  • 42. At 2:56pm on 30 Sep 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    All singapore has done is prevented the drug cartels from setting up in singapore this does not mean that they dont run drugs in singapore.

    Most trials for drugs end in a caning and enforced rehablitation with religios and social directive taught during this time.

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  • 43. At 3:24pm on 30 Sep 2009, The_judge_of_it wrote:

    And what is your point, CommunityCriminal? Are you saying that preventing drug cartels from entering a country is a small achievement?
    Never mind that; when I say it is the safest, I am talking about the number of murders, rapes, robberies per inhabitant, every year. Of course it goes well beyond that. I'm pretty sure you won't find anti-social behaviour or late night drunkeness in Singapore, and while studying there your child won't learn how to swear and bully or get bullied at school.

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  • 44. At 4:04pm on 30 Sep 2009, luckysump wrote:

    my son is special needs....he has done well at school even though he's been bullied all the way from his first day to now...i now read that as a parent i'm to recive a letter telling me i'm responsible for his behaviour....the school has tried to stop it' but to be honest not tried hard enough. the same people are to blame all the time, what is to be done about them. Are they going to stop overnight because the letter tells them too...No of course will still happen until as a parent we are allowed to punish them as i was...A good clout around the ear...worked for me. sometimes we have to go backwards to go forwards.

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  • 45. At 5:18pm on 30 Sep 2009, MrZigster wrote:

    Secretariat at number 39 writes:

    "MrZigster wrote:
    "Prison works. While the criminals are in jail, they are not on the streets commiting crime".

    Possibly the most short sighted comment I've ever read on here."

    Fingertapper at post number 33 has practically written my reply to you for me, far more eloquently than I can do. Especially the phrase "Once is youthful exhuberance, twice is stupidity but three four and five onwards are the signs of incorrigible criminal tendancies".

    Have you read my entire post?

    I was just trying to make plain my absolute bewilderment that, from Superintendent Harrods statement, it could be inferred that the police now prioritise trying to protect criminals from the possible long term consequences of their own chosen criminal behaviour, over the long term well being of people, such as the Pilkingtons, who suffer from said criminal behaviour. I was not disagreeing at all with his assertion over reoffending.

    Of course prison should be a last resort, with its aim rehabilitation.

    My apologies if I did not make myself clear.

    You have quoted one quote from other people I made from my post (which has been made to me by more than one retired police officer) and then infer, without any personal knowledge of me, that I am somehow "shortsighted" and have not considered the obvious to anyone "university of crime" aspect of a spell in detention.

    Should I assume that you do not live on a lawless estate, or don't go out alone in town at night, or you do not care as long as you are not being abused, or you are the sort of person who is blessed with the attributes required to stand up to or ignore such abuse. Should I assume that, as you think prison as rehabilitation is failing, you are arguing that we should therefore shut all prisons in the world?

    There is no denying the truth inherent in the statement you quoted.

    Not sending someone to prison after umpteen "minor civil offences such as a breach of an ASBO" (i.e a "second" offence) and numerous requests and chances for them to change their behaviour, means they are free to harass law abiding families like the Pilkingtons for, hmm, eleven years total they suffered, wasn't it?

    Speak to anybody who works in the prison and probationary service and they may also agree that, as well as many young people in jail who shouldn't be, there are those who aren't who should be, and that repeat offenders get too many chances these days.

    Leicestershire police and council should have been able to do more to ensure that the abusers in the Pilkington case didn't repeat their "mistakes" as you call them (how can you throw an egg at a house by "mistake"?). They should have been able to ensure that a few minor cases of youthful exhuberance didn't "escalate" into eleven years of criminal behaviour and abuse.

    I agree that "Prisons are now so overcrowded and under funded that rehabilitation is a joke, the root cause of the individuals problems are never dealt with so they end up coming out worse than when they went in and all we are achieving is an increase in criminality and the pain, misery and loss that is associated with this". This needs to be addressed. Perhaps the "huge amounts of money" that you assert is spent on "keeping them in prison indefinitely" (it isn't), could indeed be better spent as you suggest. Nowhere in my post did I suggested that we respond by "keeping them in prison indefinitely".

    "Proper preventative and rehabilitation services" ARE "far more important in preventing crime" I agree, but the ones in place in Leicestershire clearly did not "have a greater effect than simply locking people up" .

    You can bang on about rehabilitating criminals and aiming to stop them reoffending all you want, but all of the evidence from around the world shows, beyong a doubt, that "Prison works. While the criminals are in jail, they are not on the streets commiting crime".

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  • 46. At 7:34pm on 30 Sep 2009, Secratariat wrote:


    I'll have to offer you my apologies, I have just re-read your earlier post and I have jumped to a few conclusions and got the wrong end of the stick somewhat.

    Think I fell into the trap of reading things a bit too quickly before going for lunch and then typing a rather hasty reply.

    I'll try to engage my brain before posting next time !

    Just for the record:

    "Should I assume that you do not live on a lawless estate"

    I grew up on a council estate in Merseyside and live on a different one now. Other than when I went to University and for one year after that I've spent my entire life living in one or another council estate in Merseyside, some of them could be described as lawless but it's not really a term I'd use as even some of the worst areas like Kensington and Toxteth are far from lawless, in my opinion.

    "or don't go out alone in town at night"

    I do, mainly Liverpool.

    "or you do not care as long as you are not being abused, or you are the sort of person who is blessed with the attributes required to stand up to or ignore such abuse"

    I do care, I just think there are better things we can do to prevent such abuse, see below.

    "Should I assume that, as you think prison as rehabilitation is failing, you are arguing that we should therefore shut all prisons in the world?"

    Not at all, we need somewhere to send the politicians :-)

    For me prison, ASBO's and the various other methods used at the moment only ever deal with the symptoms people experience without ever getting close to the causes.

    Prohibition is the single greatest cause of crime & social disorder in our country. Legalisation, regulation and taxation of drugs would prevent many crimes from ever being committed while also crippling organised crime & gang activity. It would also free up the Police and allow them the time to return to Policing the streets again. Getting dealers of the streets would make a huge difference to our area, and I'd guess many others too.

    This leads us onto Policing, when I was growing up we had a few regular Police Officers who used to walk or cycle the beat on our estate. They knew almost everyone on the estate and made an effort to get to know all of the kids. They'd sort out most of the problems on our estate without things ever going any further, they knew who to talk to and the history of the people they were dealing with.
    People were happy to talk to them and go to them with their problems, that is not the case for many people around here these days. The only time we see the Police is when they're driving past at high speed or when they're kicking-in someone's front door. They don't feel like they're a part of the community and few people trust them.

    The closure of many of our mental health centres several years ago has also been a cause of increased social problems, this is something we've experienced a lot around here. We've had lots of people moved from residential mental health centres into "care in the community" social housing, in effect they have dumped people with, sometimes very severe, mental health problems into council houses & they get a health visitor coming to see them a few times a week.
    This has lead to some very frightening events, one guy sometimes forgets to take his medication on the days his health visitor doesn't come and then spends the day running around the streets grabbing people and screaming at them, obviously if this happens to someone who knows him they try to calm him down and then call the health visitor but once he's out of his own street he's doing this to people he doesn't know and more often than not this leads to a violent situation arising.
    This is just one of many such things that have been happening as a result of this policy.

    The closure of many youth centres and the selling off of playing areas has also been a cause of lots of the problems we get in our area.
    When I was growing up (not that long ago) our estate had;
    Boys Brigade
    Majorettes/Dance club
    Army cadets
    Football club
    Boxing club
    Swimming club
    Church youth club
    Community centre

    Most of these activities were either free or subsidised by the council so they cost very little and as such most of the kids on the estate were always doing something, you'd rarely see groups of kids just hanging out or roaming the streets.
    Over the last few years many of them have either closed down or are now quite expensive, unsurprisingly fewer kids are taking part in such activities and instead spend much of their time roaming the streets and causing trouble.
    Even if the financial cost of providing these services is greater than the cost associated with the extra trouble being caused, surely the social costs are worth the financial hit ?

    This is turning into quite a long post so I think I'll try to end it here for now otherwise I'll be going all night.

    What I'm trying to point out though is that we could prevent many of these problems in a far more effective way that would have long lasting benefits, unfortunately all we'll ever get from either of the main parties is more penalties, more new crimes, more time in prison etc etc, none of which will ever sort out the real problems we've got, they'll just try to deal with some of the symptoms of these problems while making them look "tough on crime".

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  • 47. At 8:19pm on 30 Sep 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    there was no point in the link much like most of this discussion until the main problem that fuels all the rape abuse murder crime is sorted out.
    I see 2 options hang everyone or legalize drugs instantly either way most low level crime will vanish. Acquisition crime has fallen for drugs why oh yer that's right shoplifting was decriminalized so that home robbery and personal crime fell to what a deemed as successful levels.

    Were a child is educated between the age of 12 - 21 is very important to how they turn out. My brother was the perfect product of this system injecting by 15 dead by 32. I see many like him every day in the area I live in and out ASBO after ASBO new level of crime or type of crime after each spell away. The system does not work and never will work.

    Also all young people who are using drugs are told by the state that they are the combatant in the war on drugs which in turn is a war on them.

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  • 48. At 9:00pm on 30 Sep 2009, MrZigster wrote:

    Secretariat. Thank you for your graceful apology and articulate, thoughtful reply.

    I completely agree, especially with the problems prohibition causes.

    Unfortunately, any political party that wishes to bring this up would be up against middle englanders, the Daily Mail brigade, tobacco, alcohol, and drugs company lobbyists and the like, and it would probably spell election day death for them.

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  • 49. At 02:33am on 01 Oct 2009, clamdip lobster claws wrote:

    I think asbos are an excuse or cheaper way not to provide whats needed for our youth. When kids are bored and they only know the confines of their neighborhood what kind of child are we raising? What kind of interesting opportunities are they given? Schools are boring, unchallenging and unhealthy institutions. We need to do better for children. When children are bored and unchallenged they'll often find negative things to do to occupy their time. Unfortunately, there are parents who can't motivate their own children or help them find what interests them. If they can't, then schools should provide these opportunities. Keeping kids occupied is essential. Why aren't they tearing apart motors, rebuilding motorcycles, learning construction, making robots, fixing computers? How many elderly widows need something fixed in their homes? These are the type of men we should be sending out into the world. Not immature, developmentally arrested Mafia wannabees.

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  • 50. At 07:02am on 01 Oct 2009, fillandfrowpist wrote:

    Although there are parts of the opening article that I can identify with, I am afraid it does not fit in with history. I have plentiful correspondence with a former Tory cabinet minister which outlines an appalling catalogue of "people crime" on a council estate. This was a "better class" council estate where the ratio of owners to tenants was 1:1 as near as makes no odds.

    Unfortunately the "security" provided by the council was contracted out, as was housing management. The private company concerned had two remits; to gain all possible profit from owners and to meet the council's contact targets on rent payments and arrears. The rest was just window dressing. So there was a problem with feral youths, gangs of between fifteen to twenty, aged anything from 10 years upwards, mostly truanting, and some with visits to secure premises. The only mitigating factor in all this was what Blair would have called an "antisocial family". This dysfunctional but exceedingly friendly family had a father who DID care about his boys - four of them - and if they ever gave you gyp you just had to mention it and the matter would be sorted. The problem was this father had a criminal record and the police would leave neither him nor his sons alone (hence a part of my correspondence).

    There was another family on this estate; middle class in attitude, a family on two boys and one girl. The girl was foul mouthed, one son was a complete psychopath and the other normal. The parents were ineffectual. But, housing management let them lie because how could such a lovely family be a problem when this other dysfunctional family was setting a bad example? (the larger part of my correspondence)

    So the psychology was wrong, the actions were wrong, and the perpetrators were wrong simply because no one listened; no one coordinated; the police had an agenda; the estate was a fearful place to live. I have no faith in authorities these days. They do not do the jobs they are paid to do and they really couldn't care less about collecting problems provided they can get their hands on taxes or profits each and everyday.

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  • 51. At 07:56am on 01 Oct 2009, newshounduk wrote:

    The problem for New Labour is that they have had twelve years to get all these ideas into reality and have not done it. Even the Sun, an avid Labour supporter, has recognised that things are not getting done with this government.

    The New Labour dream for which may people voted has turned into a nightmare with rising unemployment,insecure banking, lost savings and pensions, sell-offs of British assets and a ripoff of the British taxpayer through MPs expenses and bank bailouts.

    New Labour actually believe that they have done a good job and repeatedly flaunt their record not realising that the rest of us perceive them in a different light.Strangely, they have actually done more for people out of our country rather than those native to it.

    New Labour have always go into this mess because they lack strategic planning and do not act proactively.For example, if they had built sufficient prisons, judges would not be giving community service and asbos to people who actually belong in prison, allowing them to re-offend.If they had put more police on the street, members of the public would not have to do the job of the police and be punished for it.

    The minimum wage, though a good idea, was actually responsible for the closure of many small firms, who could not afford the extra costs.As a result, workers went from being low-paid to being unemployed.If MPs had not abused their expenses scheme, the money saved could have been put to good use elsewhere.If New Labour had not taxed pension schemes many of them would still be in existence now and workers would not be worrying about how they would cope in their old age.

    New Labour focused on implementing its manifesto rather than recognise and deal with obvious current problems in a common sense way.The result is a country that used to be a first class nation being turned into a third class banana republic on the verge of bankruptcy.

    If David Cameron's party do win I hope that they bring a lot more common sense, wisdom, integrity, honesty and compassion to the job of government than Gordon Brown's New Labour did.If they don't then people and the government are in for a rough ride.

    Government can be efficient and effective while at the same time being humane.It takes a lot of well thought-out, realistic planning coupled with compassionate implementation to protect the vulnerable.Unphased across the board cuts will not work but they will generate a lot of anti-government feeling from a nation betrayed by its politicans.

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  • 52. At 09:07am on 01 Oct 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    I notice that you totally fail to mention the Pilkington case - a woman subject to extreme criminal behaviour for years with zero protection from the police.

    You describe the issue as "non-criminal activities which might previously have been seen as nuisance, mischief, selfishness or just bad manners"

    In fact the Pilkington case documents that false imprisonment, threats with knives, threats to kill, property being burned, rocks thrown at houses are all part of conduct which has been deemed 'no offences disclosed' by the police.

    There is an attempt to present this case as a one off. In reality many people will recognise all of the elements in the case...

    * Serious criminal offences are reported to the police
    * Police label as 'disorder' and fail to respond
    * Local people respond for themselves and police protect the offenders

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  • 53. At 12:59pm on 01 Oct 2009, The_judge_of_it wrote:

    Secratariat, I notice the absence of follow-up on "evidence from around the world" regarding the consequences of harsh policing.

    You and CommunityCriminal advocate allowing drugs. Why not. Personally I could not care less about drug use, as long as it's not my children and the user does NOT abuse or assault anyone. But to imagine that allowing drugs would in one swift stroke remove most of the UK crime is delusional, in my opinion. Allowing drugs would have done no good for the Pilkingtons, for example.

    The Netherlands allow drugs, and it does seem to be a pretty safe country, but still worse than Singapore if you look at the statistics (the Netherlands homicide rate was less than half that of the UK in 2006, while Singapore's homicide rate was half that of the Netherlands. Source: Wikipedia). Petty crime is also rife in the Netherlands, according to the US Department of State website.

    #47 CommunityCriminal "there was no point in the link much like most of this discussion until the main problem that fuels all the rape abuse murder crime is sorted out."
    #46 Secratariat "The closure of many youth centres and the selling off of playing areas has also been a cause of lots of the problems we get in our area."

    Apparently, you both think that there is an external cause for all rape/abuse/murder crime. That is where I think you are wrong. If poverty and the lack of entertainment were real sources of crime, India and China would be boiling cauldrons, oversized arenas for Conan the Barbarian. Let me tell you, this they are not. New Delhi doesn't have anti-social behaviour and public drunkenness problems (or at least I didn't notice these under their last BJP right-wing government.)

    I think the cause of crime is internal: it is our natural greed, pride and lust, our instincts to take what we can when we can, to boast and pretend to be superior to others. In my opinion these traits are not psychological diseases, they are part of human nature; and you will never get anywhere by treating them as if they were diseases.

    This is perfectly illustrated in the Pilkington case. The father of the bully-in-chief, when questioned by neighbours about his son's behaviour, shrugged and replied that "boys will be boys". Basically, he allowed his sons to do whatever they wanted to do. When you have this situation, it does not matter how much leisure activities you can offer.

    Reading a book, playing a game, exercising, and whatever else you may think of, will not give a child the same feeling of power that he might get by making other people miserable, and getting away with it. In fact, giving misguided children additional leisure activites may make things worse, since you will appear to be rewarding irresponsibility.

    Now most people would say, it's the job of the parents to teach the right values, and I agree. But obviously we can't control the parents. So repeating that it is the parents' job is just wishful thinking that will never solve anything. No - where society can, and should, act is at the level of schools and police, and nowhere else. That's what Singapore does, it doesn't cry or show pity for its criminals, and it works.

    #51: "The minimum wage, though a good idea, was actually responsible for the closure of many small firms"

    If it is reponsible for bankruptcies and job losses, why is it a good idea? We have now in the UK a Zimbabwe-like unemployment rate among young people, and I put the blame squarely onto the minimum wage, one of the great achievements of New Labour. If New Labour wants to fight poverty, why doesn't it grant an income complement to those with a low salary? There is no need for a measure that hurts companies and employment. When a minimum wage is introduced, companies and entrepreneurs don't suddenly become richer. They just decide not to employ any more people for jobs that were paid less than the minimum.

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  • 54. At 2:24pm on 01 Oct 2009, newshounduk wrote:

    #51: "The minimum wage, though a good idea, was actually responsible for the closure of many small firms"

    If it is reponsible for bankruptcies and job losses, why is it a good idea? We have now in the UK a Zimbabwe-like unemployment rate among young people, and I put the blame squarely onto the minimum wage, one of the great achievements of New Labour. If New Labour wants to fight poverty, why doesn't it grant an income complement to those with a low salary? There is no need for a measure that hurts companies and employment. When a minimum wage is introduced, companies and entrepreneurs don't suddenly become richer. They just decide not to employ any more people for jobs that were paid less than the minimum.

    I was referring to the principle of getting workers off low pay and agree with you that New Labour could have achieved the same result as you suggest by supplementing workers' pay with an income supplement paid by the government. The same idea could also be applied to all the unemployed people in this country capable of work as we have millions of people being paid billions of pounds in benefits to do nothing. Most could be given a job with their pay being topped up by their benefits until such a time as their employers could pay them at the full rate. Unfortunately, it is a common theme with New Labour that, while coming up with a solution to one problem, they generate another problem.

    There's also a definite lack of creative thinking and strategic planning in New Labour, which is a pity.

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  • 55. At 3:27pm on 01 Oct 2009, stanilic wrote:


    The idea of subsidising workers' pay with public money was tried in the early nineteenth century and was called the Speenhamland system after the place where it was first enacted.

    It is a humane idea which actually did nothing but help to reduce workers' pay still further and forced the extra cost of maintaining those thus impoverished onto the ratepayer. I would suggest that this is not a good idea.

    A wealthy society is one in which all get employed and reasonably rewarded. This is the standard to which we must aspire. Over the last forty years or so we have retreated from that standard allowing the welfare state to burgeon as factories and other businesses have had to close down. As a model for a society this is just barking mad and it is no wonder things are crumbling at the edges. We have quite simply lost the plot.

    I have remarked elsewhere that we need to create a means that gets people back into work. A good place to start would be in imparting skills that will allow individuals to establish their own businesses. This is where government money needs to go to facilitate this process. We should start with the youngsters: we need plumbers, sparks and chippies so lets go make some? We need road and ground men so lets train them up. The list goes on.

    Sure what we pay ourselves needs to be adjusted along with our expectations but it is no good looking elsewhere for the solution. The question is that people need work, there is a lot that needs to be done, just look about you, then get the people to a point that they are able to do it. Once they have some money in their pocket then there will be green shoots.

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  • 56. At 00:26am on 02 Oct 2009, David Lilley wrote:

    It was such a simple mistake. "Tough on crime and the causes of crime".

    Tough on crime meant an automatic halving of sentences. Tough on the causes of crime meant every criminal was not a criminal but a poor victim of the causes of crime. Nevermind the victim, there is no revenue in helping the victim whilst we would have a major problem with revenue if we eliminated crime. Crime pays us big time.

    If you are confused then ask a criminal whether crime pays. It pays them, the police, the probation service and the legal aid lawyers. Punish crime and the prisons would be empty. How easy is it to arrest a criminal when 70% are unable to read or write, 70% have drug problems and 70% have leaning difficulties.


    David Lilley

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  • 57. At 01:10am on 02 Oct 2009, David Lilley wrote:

    There are such simple answers to our problems. Problem solving is our fortee. It is what we do best. But it is not in the interests of state funded law enforcement. They need criminals. It is their income.

    We could multiply Police presence on the streets 5 fold by giving them an Ipod such that they could be illiterate but still have all the evidence in the bag. We could double sentances if you were lying and then they would own up and we wouldn't have to pay the courts time.

    We pay so many to encourage criminallity by making it their livelehood.


    David Lilley

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  • 58. At 08:19am on 02 Oct 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    What I find quite remarkable is the number of in my view "good ideas" originating within the NuLab Party from Tony Blair and his acolytes.

    Like it or not under the system in place NuLab led by Blair did get the Nation's electoral vote 3 times in a row: Clearly Blair, a very good communicator, had a personal impact with the public, however, it is also about policy and Blair seems to have struck a chord of understanding with a majority. E.g. ending Clause 4, ASBOs, Devolution, reform of the Lords, minimum wage, easing Licensing hours etc.

    Of course the Iraq issue ruined it in the eyes of many though I am bound to say nowhere near as many as the noisy gain-sayers would have us believe (hence the 3rd term).

    Presumably Jock Brown, busy with Finance over the 10 years, went along with most reform ideas and foreign issues like Iraq, so, has now to find his own way: He has since rapidly learnt an obsession with the 'economy' has severely reduced his understanding of wider political-social affairs and no amount of reliance on a rarified 'Kirk' upbringing can replace an intuitive awareness of what the public regards as important to them at street level.

    Jock and his No.11 team became used to believing being 'clever' behind the scenes and congratulating themselves on how its their fiscal brilliance paid for it all they missed the main point of Government. Whilst Blair and his lackeys did the 'public image' bit Jock etc. forgot Politics is all about the balance of expectations between what is affordable and what is actually socially worth doing for the vote-gains that follow.

    It goes some way to explaining the complete dearth of genuine policy-making appeal by Gordo Brown and his cadre of intellectual misfits.

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  • 59. At 08:31am on 03 Oct 2009, Jon Cooper wrote:

    I think a huge problem is the lack of understanding of the mind-set of the people involved.

    Those organising, advocating, and giving out ASBOs see them as quite a draconian deterrant

    The people actually getting ASBOs uasually see them as a joke

    Same with probation etc - go to any court and sit outside listening

    "did you get done mate?"
    "nah, just probation / community service / fine"

    they genuinly do not see anything, other then custody, as a 'real' punishment - and certainly not a deterrant

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  • 60. At 10:40am on 03 Oct 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    Here's a new one...

    Youths engaged in 'anti-social behaviour'(kicking a fence down), houseowner confronts them, 5 of them beat him to death with a hammer.


    Little bit more than just "non-criminal activities which might previously have been seen as nuisance, mischief, selfishness or just bad manners" isn't it??

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  • 61. At 5:14pm on 03 Oct 2009, ewenhoozarmy wrote:

    We don't need more laws. We don't need politicians telling us we need more laws, in order to distract us from their failures. We don't need do-gooders whining about the personal liberties of those who feel they can do whatever they like with complete disregard for people or property.
    What we need is for the laws we already have to be enforced. We need punishment to fit the crime. We need criminals and yobs to walk in fear of the retribution of the society they defile.
    Another layer of useless beauracracy and non-punishments will only serve to further clog up the legal system while making absolutely no difference at all to what is actually happening. Come and live in my street, Mr Brown - I promise you will see things differently.

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  • 62. At 6:12pm on 04 Oct 2009, Th1nk-about-it wrote:

    "The party saw a crackdown on anti-social behaviour as an attack on the working classes. But Tony Blair won them round and convinced members that being "tough" could be a socialist cause."
    This makes my head spin, for so many reasons.
    One, we now have a permanent never-employed underclass, whose kids are widely described as 'feral'. Has 'the party' really not noticed this? Down here in the real world it's very noticeable. This is where most of the crime and antisocial behaviour comes from.
    Two, as the underclass lives in working-class areas, it's the working class that suffers most by a long way from the antisocial behaviour. Then gets blamed for it by New Labour.
    Three, since when did New Labour care a hoot about the working class anyway?
    Four, I thought they had dropped the word 'socialist', in a rare moment of honesty.

    A real crackdown would do a lot to improve life in areas outside the pleasant suburbs inhabited by New Labour.

    But it would have go hand-in-hand with a string of changes such as holding parents responsible for their children's behaviour, rapidly evicting problem tenants, raising and enforcing the minimum wage (and not allowing employers to hire immigrants cheaper), and even changing the benefits system so that having numerous children doesn't pay better than working.

    That's not Daily Mail stuff - or if it is, as I don't read the Daily Mail, then they've got it right this time. It would be positive action in favour of ordinary working-class people. I can't see it happening.

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  • 63. At 03:13am on 08 Oct 2009, copperDolomite wrote:

    Life is and can be an absolute misery for those living in an area where bad behaviour is rife. We even permit kids to behave badly at school for far too long, ruining the life chances of themselves and others.

    We need to reward good behaviour and punish bad behaviour. And this should not be restricted to those of working class. Many a kid from a well-off family can be a nightmare; I've experience of working with them in educational facilities established as the place to send them when no other school will have them. Their parents too.

    Almost all of the kids, from poor and very wealthy backgrounds had nightmare parents (incompetent, selfish, or just plain brutal nasty people).

    I look forward to all the same criticisms and asbos being directed to the financial industries where the employees and bosses have brought more misery and destruction to this nation than many working class have to their street.

    We need a fairer society and it needs to be seen to be fairer.

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  • 64. At 3:56pm on 13 Oct 2009, Woolfbane wrote:

    As Mrs Thatcher might have put it: there is no such thing as anti-social behaviour, only individual thugs and criminals and their families.

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