Friday, 30 November 2012

Policing on the cheap; ASBO's being replaced by 'restorative justice'.

At the request of the Police Federation, I recently met with several concerned police officers from across East Lancashire, who serve in various roles and at various levels within Lancashire Constabulary. They wanted to meet with me to tell me what impact the Government’s police cuts are doing to policing in Lancashire. 

The Government has clearly lost the confidence of the police force, not just with the cuts and changes to pay and conditions but with police reform.
One particular issue that came up was the success of ASBOs, and the government’s decision to legislate to scrap them. Police staff were in unanimous agreement that ASBO’s worked and worked very well. One officer stated that "in nearly all cases they were not seen as a badge as honour but in fact a fast track to prison". 792 have been issues in Lancashire since 1999 and anti social behaviour has fallen significantly.

ASBO’s represented a deterrent against low level anti-social crime that otherwise is difficult for the police to pursue and prosecute. Every officer felt that the Home Office and Government are undermining their ability to do the job returning policing of low level crime to the dark days when criminals had the upper hand. 

The Government has replaced ASBOs with the much weaker and less effective CRIMBOs. One officer said, “with the loss of ASBO’s the criminals are laughing at us”. I have spoken to senior Police Officers across the UK who tell me they support ASBO’s. 

Neighbourhood PCSO’s particularly felt demoralised by the impending loss of ASBO sanctions, staff reductions and Home Office guidance putting the emphasis on cheaper option of restorative justice for those persistent offenders who would have previously had an ASBO and gone to prison for breaching it.  

The latest official figures show that the number of ASBOs issued in Lancashire has fallen by 42% between 2011 and 2012 and correspondingly, the number of restorative justice cases that avoid any criminal sanction has risen sharply. 

Restorative justice has a role but over 50% of ASBO’s were successful giving battered local communities and individuals some respite from the criminal activities of a mindless minority. Officers told me that restorative justice is being used by the Home Secretary as a cheap alternative to ASBO’s designed to cut police costs. 

The Home Secretary Theresa May is taking away the laws local people used to tackle the blight of anti-social behaviour. Theresa May took an irresponsible gamble with our community’s safety when she declared ‘It’s time to move beyond the ASB’. That was over two years ago, the public are still waiting for the Home Secretary to bring forward legislation for its replacement.

New figures

The latest ASBO figures (2011) can be found in the table below and are broken down into each individual Criminal Justice System Area. The figures for 2010 are also included to allow a direct comparison with the latest figures.
Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) issued at all courts in each Criminal Justice System (CJS) area as reported to the
Ministry of Justice by the Court Service for 2010 & 2011 and the total number of ASBOs issued since April 31st 1999.

England and Wales



CJS Area

2010
2011
Total issued





Avon and Somerset
60
60
479
Bedfordshire
23
3
202
Cambridgeshire
18
21
240
Cheshire

14
13
356
Cleveland

26
32
421
Cumbria

9
13
246
Derbyshire
22
18
293
Devon and Cornwall
36
32
392
Dorset

13
9
153
Durham

29
17
255
Dyfed Powys
4
5
65
Essex

9
29
325
Gloucestershire
6
5
143
Greater London
206
233
2,651
Greater Manchester
134
81
2,113
Gwent

18
19
217
Hampshire & Isle of Wight
29
26
607
Hertfordshire
18
6
286
Humberside
79
100
775
Kent

8
8
264
Lancashire
71
41
792
Leicestershire
33
15
309
Lincolnshire
6
9
108
Merseyside
143
104
967
Norfolk

13
18
266
North Wales
25
17
457
North Yorkshire
12
14
200
Northamptonshire
31
17
238
Northumbria
40
10
539
Nottinghamshire
41
45
610
South Wales
36
45
441
South Yorkshire
43
22
527
Staffordshire
24
24
345
Suffolk

14
5
314
Surrey

16
8
204
Sussex

38
21
510
Thames Valley
30
22
387
Warwickshire
3
6
169
West Mercia
36
35
495
West Midlands
90
77
1,651
West Yorkshire
151
116
1,645
Wiltshire

7
13
92





England and Wales
1,664
1,414
21,749