Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Written evidence from The Standing Committee for Youth Justice (SCYJ) (ASB 27)


The Standing Committee for Youth Justice (SCYJ) is a coalition of over 30 voluntary sector organisations which champion youth justice reform.


1. We recognise that antisocial behaviour causes serious harm to individuals and communities. Robust and effective responses are required if such behaviour is to be properly addressed. However we do not believe that the measures proposed in the Bill are useful tools for responding to children’s antisocial behaviour (ASB).


2. SCYJ is seriously concerned that the adoption of the lower threshold of ‘causing nuisance and annoyance’ as the test for the injunction to be granted will have a particularly detrimental effect on children. The existing test – ‘harassment, alarm and distress’- is already low and has the scope to encompass a wide range of behaviour. Lowering the threshold risks children being made subject to such orders simply for being ‘annoying’, thus widening the net of children subject to ASB orders. Frontline professionals have informed us that ASBOs are already imposed inappropriately on children for mere ill discipline, such as swearing loudly in large groups; they question why the threshold needs to be lowered further. In recent months, a range of children’s charities, ACPO and several Police and Crime Commissioners have warned that the new threshold risks being ‘too subjective’ and could ‘unnecessarily criminalise’ children. [1] The current test of ‘harassment, alarm and distress’ should remain.


3. It is troubling that granting an injunction will only require the civil standard of proof – balance of probabilities – to be met, rather than the more rigorous, currently-used criminal standard test, ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. We view this as all the more problematic given that imprisonment is available as a sanction for breach by children. The test of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ set out in the 2002 House of Lords judgement should be included in the new statutory provisions. [2]


4. Between one to two-thirds of ASBO recipients have mental health problems and/or learning difficulties. [3] Early persistent behavioural problems constitute one of the most common childhood mental health problems, affecting 6 per cent of children. [4]   Despite the acknowledgment in the ASB White Paper of the strong links between ASB and health issues, [5] nowhere in the Bill are such needs provided for. Without proper assessment, children with mental health problems risk being made subject to inappropriately imposed and ‘undoable’ ASB orders. There is therefore a strong argument for proper assessment and early help through well-proven interventions, many of which have demonstrated potential for improved outcomes and significant savings across a range of budgets in the longer term. [6] Children should have a full health and social assessment before any ASB order is granted. The order should take account of any identified needs and clearly set out how they are to be addressed.

‘NAMING AND SHAMING’ (clauses 17, 22 (7) and (8), 29 (5))

5. We are concerned that the Bill specifically disapplies section 49 Children & Young Persons Act 1933 – the presumption against revealing details of a child’s identity – to children subject to ASB proceedings, including breach. This means that children as young as 10 are able to be publicly named. The exclusion of s49 Children & Young Persons Act 1933 from the Bill is problematic for several reasons. The provision:

a. C ontravenes the anonymity that is usually granted to ch ildren in criminal proceedings;

b. C an hinder successful rehabilitation;

c. I s a safeguarding issue as it makes public the details of often vulnerable children;

d. I n our age of the internet and social media, means that details of a child’s identity are indelible once revealed ;

e. Can be a ‘badge of honour’ – an incentiv e for a child to engage in ASB; and

f. D isregards the right to privacy in the UN C onvention of the R ights of the C hild , to which the UK is a signatory.

6. SCYJ would like to see s49 Children and Young Persons Act 1933 – the presumption against revealing details of a child’s identity – applied to all ASB application and breach proceedings involving under-18s. This would protect children from the blanket reporting and resulting harms outlined above, but would still enable the court to lift the reporting restrictions if it was felt to be necessary.


§ Nearly 7 in 10 children breach their ASBOs. [7]

§ Imprisonment is imposed as a sanction for juvenile ASBO breach in 38 per cent of cases. [8]

§ Under-18s receive on average 6.3 months in custody for breach of an ASBO, compared to 4.8 months for adults . [9]

7. Long-lasting ASBOs have been criticised for making breach ‘almost inevitable’ as young people cannot see the end in sight and, thus, have little incentive to comply. [10] Detention is widely shown to be counterproductive and particularly harmful for children. [11] We are therefore particularly troubled by the proposal that imprisonment is available as a sanction for children who breach the new orders (two years detention for breach of a C riminal B ehaviour O rder [CBO] and three mon ths for breach of an injunction or dispersal order). Only the most seriou s and dangerous young offenders receive custodial sentences in the youth justice system . The sanction proposed here is therefore disproportionate and is in our view not in accordance with the UNCRC provision that custody should be used only as a last resort . Custody should not be available as a sanction for breach of ASB orders by children. Serious breaches should instead be addressed by means of robust community alternatives.


8. We are seriously concerned by the proposal that if conditions for eviction relating to ASB are met and eviction is sought by the landlord, the court must commence eviction order proceedings . Conditions include: that a tenant of or person visiting the dwelling breache s their injunction or CBO, or commits a serious offence. It is clear that this could have s evere implications for under-18s, affecting both blameless children residing in such houses and young people who breach or offend . The proposals are all the more troubling given the fact that nearly 7 in 10 children breach their ASB orders , [12] typically due to lack of support rather than willful non-compliance. Such a sanction would fail to address the underlying causes of the behaviour and may serve to perpetuate it. SCYJ calls for the deletion of this clause.

July 2013

[1] Telegraph, Children face court for being ‘annoying’ under new ASBO scheme, 29 Jan 2013 [accessed via: (04/02/13)]; The Times, Antisocial alarm, 10 June 2013 [accessed via: (12.06.13)]

[2] R (on the application of McCann and others) v Crown Court at Manchester [2002] UKHL 39; [2003] 1 AC 787

[3] See BIBIC (2007) as cited in Centre for Mental Health, A new mandatory power of possession for anti-social behaviour: Consultation Response from Centre for Mental Health [accessed via: (22/02/13)]; and Campbell S (2002), A review of anti-social behaviour orders - Home Office Research Study 236 , London: Home Office, p18

[4] Centre for Mental Health (2012) A chance to change: delivering effective parenting programmes to transform lives , London: Centre for Mental Health, p5

[5] Home Office (2012) Putting Victims First: more effective responses to antisocial behaviour, The Stationary Office

[6] Aos S, Miller M & Drake E (2006) Evidence-Based Public Policy Options to Reduce Future Prison Construction, Criminal Justice Costs and crime rates, Washington State: Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy; Ce ntre for Mental Health (2009) Chance of a lifetime. London: Centre for Mental Health

[7] Ministry of Justice (2012) Anti-Social Behaviour Order Statistics – England and Wales 2011, p3

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] See for example Pople L, (2010) ‘Responding to antisocial behaviour’ in D Smith (ed) A New Response to Youth Crime, Devon: Willan Publishing, p159 9 Brogan D (2005) Antisocial Behaviour Orders: An assessment of current management information systems and the scale of Antisocial Behaviour Order breaches resulting in custody , London: Youth Justice Board, p24

[11] See for example, Smith D (2010) ‘The need for a fresh start’ in D Smith (ed) A New Response to Youth Crime, Devon: Willan Publishing , pp12-13; and Nagin D et al., (2009), ‘Imprisonment and Reoffending’ in M Tonry (ed) Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, vol 29, p145

[12] M inistry of Justice (2012) Anti-Social Behaviour Order Statistics – England and Wales 2011, p3

Prepared 5th July 2013