UK Family Law Reform

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/dec/10/youthjustice.homeaffairs

Thinktank calls for use of asbos to be reviewed

James Meikle 10th December 2007

Britain is in danger of becoming a nation of "paedophobics", fearful of children and young people, according to a thinktank which warns that antisocial behaviour orders may actually encourage youth crime.

The Institute for Public Policy Research says the "asbo culture" can be a self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to offending, and suggests their use should be reviewed. Children under 12 should not be given asbos, and the orders should run for a maximum of two years, not 10.

Asbos are court orders introduced in Tony Blair's first term. They can ban people from continuing offending behaviour, restrict the time they spend with friends or forbid them going to certain places. Breaching an order is a crime that can lead to a fine or up to five years in jail.

But there have been claims that orders sought by police, councils or social housing landlords can be draconian, applied inconsistently, and are seen as badges of honour by some young people.

The IPPR, which will publish a report on asbos next month, says legislation should be reformed so parents of at-risk children are given support to divert their children from crime. It argues that a lack of adult supervision has increased the threat of youth crime and violence.

The IPPR calls for new "play rangers" who would police existing play areas, and new, staffed adventure playgrounds in disadvantaged areas. More social workers, behavioural psychologists and family welfare officers should be based in schools where children are most at risk of under-achievement and antisocial behaviour.

The report warns early asbos, juvenile curfews or "boot camps" are all approaches that may be counter-productive and recommends constructive activities involving "adult authority figures", including sport, drama and arts events. It also calls for uniformed activities such as scouts, guides and martial arts where skills are rewarded with badges, belts and ranks.

Carey Oppenheim, IPPR's co-director, said: "The problem with 'kids these days' is the way adults are treating them. Britain is in danger of becoming a nation fearful of its young people: a nation of paedophobics. We need policy which reminds adults that it is their responsibility to set norms of behaviour and to maintain them through positive and authoritative interaction with young people."

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