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Child commissioner attacks 'baby Asbos' plan
By Lucy Ward and Rosie Cowan 14th October 2005
The government should ditch any moves to introduce "baby Asbos" to tackle antisocial behaviour in children under 10, Al Aynsley-Green, the children's commissioner for England, said yesterday. The "worrying" development was "part of the incessant programme of policy towards punishment and control" of children.
In an interview with the Guardian, Professor Aynsley-Green said he was not a "dewy-eyed liberalist" and not against all Asbos, but that they were inappropriate for children below the age of criminal responsibility. He was responding to reports that the government is considering extending antisocial behavioural orders, which ban individuals from committing certain acts or entering certain areas, to youngsters. He said the government was "speaking with forked tongue", since it was seeking ever tougher punishments while introducing reforms to protect vulnerable youngsters.
He was concerned about whether some Asbos were "appropriate, sensible, proportionate and just". He also expressed concern about the high numbers of young people, including those with mental health problems, targeted by antisocial behaviour orders. He said young people with autism, Asberger's syndrome and Tourette's syndrome had no control over their behaviour, and called for an inquiry to see whether the orders were effective before their use was extended.
But senior police officers said that measures for the under-10s might be necessary as a last resort. Mike Goodwin, the Leicestershire chief constable and the Association of Chief Police Officers' spokesman on Asbos, said: "We support any well thought-through proportionate intervention that gives some respite where beleaguered communities are suffering at the hands of individuals, some of whom are under 10."
The Surrey chief constable, Bob Quick, said many people would argue that some 10-year-olds were "streetwise enough to know the consequences of their actions".
According to figures in June, 4,649 Asbos have been issued since their introduction in 1999, of which 2,057 have applied to children aged 10 to 17.
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