Headlines: June 30th, 2005

The Government is considering allowing local authorities to hand over their responsibility for pursuing contract Anti Social Behaviour Orders to the organisations that manage their housing stocks. Consultations on the possibilities have been announced by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

The consultation will seek opinions on whether councils should be able to contract their ASBO functions to bodies to whom they delegate their housing management responsibilities. This, the Government believes would support those local authorities that decide they can offer better services to their communities by contracting out their power to seek ASBOs to bodies already carrying out services on their behalf.

News of the consultation came as the Home Office announced what it called ‘a vigorous take up’ of ASBOs by local authorities, the police and housing associations. Figures showed that in the last quarter of last year 786 ASBOs were issued – more than twice as many as the number issued in the same quarter of the previous year.

Tomorrow provisions of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 will come into force. These will give vulnerable witnesses in anti-social behaviour order cases added protection and support when they appear in court. Under the proposals special measures, including the use of screen for witnesses and allowing them to give evidence from outside the courtroom via video links, will be possible. The use of intermediaries when witnesses or victims of anti social behaviour are communicating with the police will also be allowed. The changes also mean an end to automatic reporting restrictions so that the local media will be able to give details of people who breach their behaviour orders.

The Home Office also announced an extra half a million pounds of funding for Individual Support Orders that can be attached to ASBOs for young people between the ages of 10 and 17. They are designed to address the underlying causes of unacceptable and damaging behaviour. They can include anger management courses, and alcohol and drug misuse programmes. Home Office Minister, Hazel Blears, said she hoped to see increased use of the Individual Orders as a result of the extra funding as she believed a package of enforcement and support would bring about positive changes to many young people’s lives.