Asbos to come into force on Monday


Anti Social Behaviour Orders which will target troublesome adults from Monday should be independently monitored by the Human Rights Commission, a youth worker said today.

Youngsters aged between 12 and 18 years will also feel the force of the orders from March 1.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell said the ASBOs, used in a focused way, will have the potential to be of real and practical benefit to society.

The measures will allow senior gardai to apply to take action in the courts against the behaviour of a person. Criminal proceedings will be taken against those who defy an order and continue to engage in the behaviour which is the subject of the order.

"Apart altogether from the menace of career criminals involved in drug and gun crime, there is also concern about lower level anti-social behaviour causing serious interference in the lives of people, and especially the most vulnerable, in our communities," said Mr McDowell.

"While some people have the financial resources to seek private law injunction-type remedies to protect their rights to enjoyment of their property, many do not.

"I believe that the State should ensure that similar protection is available to all our citizens."

A separate range of procedures will apply to young people which were framed in the context of the overall philosophy and policy that underpins the Children Act and contain significant additional features to the civil orders for persons over 18.

Mr McDowell said these carefully worked out mechanisms will further add to the range of early interventions available to deal with children at risk and prevent their progression into more serious offending.

However Youth Work Ireland, which campaigned against ASBOs, called for the Human Rights Commission to monitor the move and the Ombudsman for Children to have a leading role in the process.

"Despite the fact that ASBOs have been substantially watered down we still believe many people are concerned about them and their impact on young people in particular," said Michael McLoughlin from Youth Work Ireland.

"It is important therefore that a body independent of the Government and the Gardai can oversee their introduction.

"Many young people unfortunately do not have faith in the gardai in specific areas and ASBOs could be used in an inappropriate way here and elsewhere.

"ASBOs still represent a dangerous blurring of the criminal and civil law allowing the authorities to potentially bring criminal proceedings against somebody who has not committed a criminal offence in the real sense of the word."

Mr McLoughlin added that while there have been some welcome reforms of ASBOs, they will have to be used as an absolute last resort.

"However society needs independent reassurance that this is how they will be used, unlike in the UK where they have further alienated a substantial number of young people," he said.