Alliance Against McDowell Plan Formed

Posted By: March 29, 2013

Kitty Holland

A coalition of church, civil liberties and
children’s rights groups has been formed to fight
the introduction of new “draconian” powers to
deal with “anti-social” behaviour.

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell has
confirmed his intention to introduce Anti-Social
Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) before the end of the
year, saying they had worked well in Britain.

In Britain, where they were introduced in 1998,
ASBOs can be applied for by local authorities,
police forces or registered social landlords,
against any youth over the age of 10 allegedly
involved in anti-social behaviour.

The young person is brought before the courts on
a civil basis and an ASBO is made against them.
If the order is breached the matter becomes a
criminal matter, and the young person can be

Anti-social behaviour is defined as any “which
causes harassment, alarm and distress”.

The Coalition Against ASBOs – which includes the
Children’s Rights Alliance, the ISPCC, the Irish
Council for Civil Liberties, Amnesty
International, the Jesuit Centre for Faith and
Justice and the Irish Youth Council – said
yesterday ASBOs were not ! a means of dealing
with the problem and would criminalise young

“The fact that the order is a civil order means
that the burden of proof is on the balance of
probabilities and not ‘beyond reasonable doubt’,”
it said.

An order against a young person could be made on
hearsay evidence, the coalition said, and ASBOs
would be used disproportionately against young
people from disadvantaged areas.

UCC law lecturer Ursula Kilkelly said that in
Britain ASBOs had led to an increase in the
number of young people in custody.

A third of young people against whom ASBOs had
been made breached them and half of these ended
up in custody, Ms Kilkelly said. The idea of
introducing them here was “appalling” and they
would have a “net-widening” effect. They would
undermine the Children’s Act which says custody
should be the sanction of last resort.

The union representing probation and welfare
officers has described Mr McDowell’s plans as a
“paper tiger”. Impact probation spokesman Oliver
Fallon said his members had not been consulted.

He expressed concern at the possible increasing
criminalisation of young people, but doubted
whether there would be an increase in the number
of young people in custody.

“There aren’t the places to put them,” he said.
There were 34 places in Oberstown and 26 in
Trinity House which were almost always full.
There were real problems with anti-social
behaviour and young people, Mr Fallon said.

“We have real concerns about juvenile justice and
are currently trying to roll out the Children’s
Act, with limited resources,” he added.

© The Irish Times