Write a cabinet paper on the potential for ASBO’s to contribute to the effective enforcement of legislation enforced by environmental health departments.
The following are the arguments in favour of ASBO’s contributing or having the potential to contribute to the effective enforcement of the legislation carried out by environmental health departments across the country. The Prime Minister has already expressed in public his determination to reduce and eliminate anti-social behaviour and allow the general public to feel safer and have the problems associated with anti-social behaviour reduced. ASBO’s have already proved that they have potential in making Britain a cleaner and safer place to live in. Between their introduction from 1 April 1999 and the 31 March 2004, 2455 ASBO’s were approved and enforced showing the determination of the police, environmental health departments and social services amongst others to reducing the problems associated with anti-social behaviour.
ASBO’s are an alternative sanction available to both environmental health departments and ultimately the police to ensure that legislation is enforced and public order is maintained. Environmental health departments have to meet requirements such as reducing the level of graffiti, vandalism and litter or tackling noise nuisance, all of which can be considered anti-social behaviour and can lead to the involvement of the police and the courts. Such behaviour either directly effects law abiding people, intimidates them or blights their lives with fear. ASBO’s have the potential and the intention of protecting the property, the environment and the personal safety of the majority of law-abiding people. They are intended to remove the anti-social behaviour carried out by the law breaking minorities that ruin the lives of the most vulnerable and cause social, economic and environmental damage to local communities.
Tackling anti-social behaviour through the use of ASBO’s has the potential to make people feel safer as well as improving the physical environment they live in. The work of environmental health departments is closely linked with not only the police but also social services and local education authorities as there are strong connections between truancy and youths being involved in anti-social behaviour and crime. Close co-operation between these agencies increases the potential of ASBO’s to decrease crime, people’s fear of crime whilst making Britain a better place to live in. This government should take pride in been able to reduce people’s fear of being the victims of crime. The British crime survey has shown a fall from 40% in 1995 to 26% in 2004 of people expecting to be the victims of crime and anti-social behaviour or believing that they faced such a risk. If ASBO’s allow environmental health departments and other agencies to reduce the amount of graffiti and vandalism visible and counter the presence of gangs that fear of crime should diminish further as should the risk.
ASBO’s offer the potential to break up the gangs that break the law through acts of vandalism, graffiti and other forms of anti-social behaviour by banning individuals from the estates or areas they cause damage in. Breaking up gangs would mean that environmental health departments could deal with individuals rather than more intimidating gangs. ASBO’s can allow agencies such as environmental health departments and the police to control, punish or rehabilitate minor offenders whilst avoiding imprisonment were possible. However ASBO’s it should be stressed are not a soft option and the breaking of their conditions should result in further appropriate action been taken to curb anti-social behaviour including ultimately imprisonment.
Through the use of ASBO’s environment health departments have the potential to tackle persistent offenders without spending so much time preparing prosecutions whilst still being to prosecute people that breach their ASBO’s. While any ASBO is still in operation the onus remains on environmental health departments, social services and the police to monitor the behaviour of those subject to ASBO’s. ASBO’s can be used as part of the government’s crime reduction targets.  Central government can offer incentives for local authorities to tackle anti-social behaviour and has already allocated extra resources to the areas worst affected by anti-social behaviour. The success of environmental health departments in tackling anti-social behaviour will be measured with little extra cost through the Comprehensive Performance Assessment process already carried out by the Audit Commission that monitors local authorities provision of services. The public will be able to find out which local authorities are the most effective and will be able to press the less effective councils into taking further action.
ASBO’s potentially allow environmental health departments to fulfil their legislative obligations by diffusing and stopping anti-social behaviour more efficiently and with greater speed. The removal of persistent offenders or gang ringleaders will show the determination and effectiveness of environmental health department to enforce the law properly and completely. ASBO’s have the potential to reduce anti-social behaviour whilst the involvement of environmental health departments and other agencies could allow the police to switch their resources to tackling more serious crimes. Anti-social behaviour may not always be considered to be major crime yet it can lead to it hence the importance of ASBO’s in reducing the problem. Reducing anti-social behaviour will not only enhance the public’s quality of life it would prove cost effective in terms of lower expenditure in cleaning up graffiti and property damage as well as fewer people in overcrowded prisons.
The availability of ASBO’s offers the potential for environmental health departments to clean up areas of environmental damage or anti-social behaviour that impacts on the environment such as noise pollution, juvenile crime and vandalism. Other areas in which ASB0’s have the potential to allow environmental health departments fulfil their statuary requirements include countering anti-social behaviour caused by drinking and to a lesser extent begging in public. There are certainly strong links between heavy drinking (and drug taking) with anti-social or criminal behaviour. Some crimes such as burglary, car crime and robbery have fallen significantly in 2004-05 by 20%, 17% and 12% respectively. However the potential of ASBO’s to work effectively for environmental health departments, the police and other agencies would increase with measures against binge drinking. Binge drinking is directly connected to most violent crime and anti-social behaviour. ASBO’s are part of the solution to environmental health departments meeting their statutory requirements yet will work best in combination with other strategies and through co-operation with other agencies.
Coxall B, Robins L & Leach R (2003) Contemporary British Politics 4th edition, Palgrave, London
Dodd T, Nicholas S, Povey D and Walker A (2004) Home Office Statistical Bulletin, Crime in England and Wales 2003/04, Crown Copyright, London
Home Office (2005) The Government Reply to the Fifth Report from the Home Affairs Committee Session 2004/05 HC80 Anti-Social behaviour, Crown Copyright, London
Jones M and Lowe R (2002) From Beveridge to Blair – The first fifty years of Britain’s Welfare State 1948-98, Manchester University Press Manchester and New York.
Slack, R ‘Drunken yobs blamed for record violent crimes, Daily Mail 21st July 2005
www.homeoffice.gov.uk Crime & Policing / Anti-Social Behaviour Orders Legally Binding Undertaking
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