Anti-Social Behaviour Order study
In response to concern about the impact of anti-social behaviour legislation on young people and YOTs, the YJB commissioned a small study to examine the profile of young people entering custody as a result of breaching an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO). The aims of the study were:
- to identify the management information that was available and its accuracy and significance, as well as any gaps in it
- to propose options on ways of improving the quality and availability of management information
- to assess the scale of the problem of young people entering custody as a result of breaching an ASBO
- to identify the reasons why young people are breaching ASBOs by reviewing the cases of those currently in custody.
Read the full report:
The study was carried out through analysing existing data, collecting data on specific cases from YOTs, and interviews with key individuals involved in the anti-social behaviour process, including YOT managers, anti-social behaviour co-ordinators and court recorders.
The assessment of the number of young people entering custody as a result of breaching an ASBO was based on an investigation of 87 cases. The cases were identified through a 'snapshot' survey on a single day and, therefore, are not necessarily representative. In places, the sample size fell to only 43 when detailed case information was considered. Finally, case data relating to ASBOs is generally inconsistent and patchy. The only complete data on ASBOs are court returns to the Home Office.
Bearing in mind its limitations in size and methodology, the study provides some possible indications of the impact of anti-social behaviour legislation on the youth justice system. However, it will be necessary to await the result of a larger, more robust piece of research that the YJB has commissioned, reporting in late 2006, to be sure of the weight that can be placed on this study's conclusions.
In assessing the cases of young people entering custody as a result of breaching an ASBO, the study identified the majority of them as prolific offenders. In the 43 cases where relevant information was available, each young person had an average of 42 previous offences. The report therefore does not suggest that the use of ASBOs is bringing children into custody who would not have been likely to enter custody by other routes at some point.
The study also identified that, although these young people were known to the YOTs, in 29% of the cases the YOT was not consulted before the ASBO was imposed. The report suggests that vital information relating to the young person's circumstances may be omitted because of this. It also indicates that the anti-social behaviour process is missing the opportunity to draw on the considerable skills available among YOT professionals. The guidance on the role of the YOT in dealing with anti-social behaviour, produced by the YJB, the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers, aims to clarify this situation.
Of the 87 cases of young people in custody for breaching an ASBO, the study found that two-thirds of the ASBOs issued on them were done so through the 'stand alone' process in the civil court, with almost 45% of these involving a prohibition from committing a specific criminal act or acts.
Of the remaining third, which were issued 'post conviction', only 19% contain similar restrictions. With this in mind, the report suggests that a young person may be sentenced more severely, increasing the likelihood of a custodial sentence, due to sentencing for both the commission of a criminal offence and the breach of the ASBO, although both offences arise from the same act.
The study also highlighted that ASBOs made in the civil court do not always have the advantage of YOT oversight, and, therefore, the young people receiving these orders may not receive the support and intervention required to assist in complying with its terms.
The study found that the average length of the ASBOs imposed on these young people was 39 months, although they ranged from 2 years to 10 years. It also showed that, on average, breach occurred within 6 months of the ASBO being imposed, with 85% of breaches occurring in the first quarter of the ASBO's term. Except for the most serious offences, these terms are longer than for a comparable order in the youth justice system, and the study raises the questions of the ability of these young people to comply with orders of such length, though no clear link can be made between breach and these concerns.
The collection and collation of information on ASBOs is a concern raised by the study. It reports that no single agency is responsible for data collection, nor is any standard management information system available to local anti-social behaviour co-ordinators.
The study recommends that YOTs should be responsible for the collection of information on young people, and this will implemented through the new counting rules that begin in April 2005. In addition, it recommends that YOTs open a case file on any young person involved in the anti-social behaviour process, for example at the Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC) stage, although clearly this will have an impact on YOT resources.