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Wednesday, 14 April 2010

ASBO ‘BREACH’ CHILDREN SET UP TO FAIL

Agencies dealing with children and young people in breach of bail conditions, criminal justice orders (CJOs) and anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) need to strike a balance between enforcement and support to improve outcomes for young offenders and reduce re-offending, according to a new NCB report ‘Children and young people in ‘breach’: A scoping report on policy and practice in the enforcement of criminal justice and anti-social behaviour orders’.

The report contains the initial findings from a project to increase understanding of policy and practice in breach proceedings, particularly focusing on children and young people who are in custody as a result of breach. Recent years have seen an increasing number of young people incarcerated for breach, including cases whereby no criminal offence was committed in the first instance.

It questions whether intervention by anti-social behaviour units is too adult focused so that the conditions attached to ASBOs are unachievable for many young people. In contrast, recent youth justice appears to be trying to move towards a more flexible and child centred approach. The report suggests that communication may be weak between different agencies, young people and their legal representatives, with young people not always understanding the conditions of their order or the consequences of non-compliance.

Di Hart, author of the report and Principal Officer of Youth Justice and Welfare at NCB says, ‘We must remember that young offenders are children first and offenders second. This is not to suggest that young offenders shouldn’t be held to account for their actions, but that the practitioners that work with them should accept responsibility for ensuring their conditions are reasonable and that they understand them in full. Communication, intensive intervention and tailored support are key ingredients in assisting children and young people who are often from difficult and chaotic homes to complete their orders rather than relying on a punitive approach alone.’

www.ncb.org.uk

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