Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Give the Home Secretary an ASBO!

We should always welcome a review, because it’s important to know whether a policy is efficient, effective and responsive.

That’s why I have no problem with the new Home Secretary Theresa May’s announcement that she is launching a review of anti-social behaviour policies. My problem was with her speech which accompanied the launch.

Rarely have I read a speech which was so littered with factual inaccuracies, so distorting of recent history, so fatuous in the analysis, so out of touch with reality on the ground in local communities. That should concern all of us.

Theresa May said:
• “she would judge success on whether or not crime and ASB fell.” Well, crime and anti-social behaviour have fallen significantly under the very policies she is now proposing to abolish – crime fell 47% between 1997 and 2009
• “people’s fear of anti-social behaviour had increased” – the British Crime Survey, regarded by all the experts as the best measure of crime trends, has just reported that public perception of anti-social behaviour is at its lowest since records began
• “anti-social behaviour orders don’t work because so many people breached them”. She clearly failed to understand that ASBOs are not the first intervention to stop bad behaviour. Other methods are tried first. Even then, the National Audit Office and the Audit Commission Labour’s approach to ASB worked with 65% of behaviour desisting after the first intervention and 93% after the third.
• “ASBOs criminalise young people” – ASBOs are not part of the criminal law, which is why it has been easier to take action, rather than with possible criminal law alternatives which have stricter standards of proof
• “ASBOs should go because some young people wear them as a badge of pride”. How fatuous can you get? In my youth, some of those who’d been to borstal or detention centre also used to brag about their record. The only impact was on the small minority of their friends who were stupid enough to believe this was something to be admired. The vast majority of young people think their behaviour is contemptible and their bravado foolish.

As she has already announced cuts in the budgets for the police (police on the streets will fall) and diversionary activities for young people, restrictions in police powers to use the DNA database and restrictions on CCTV, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Theresa May, like the Conservative governments of the 1980s and 90s, wants crime and anti-social behaviour to increase again.

Perhaps she should be served with an ASBO before she can do any more damage?