Victims 'To Get Voice' As Asbos Scrapped

Gerard Tubb, North of England Correspondent
Victims 'To Get Voice' As Asbos Scrapped

Victims of anti-social behaviour will get to have a say in how offenders are punished under plans put forward by the Government.

The so-called Community Remedy forms part of draft legislation that could become law in 2014.

The changes, based on a Government white paper published in May, will slim down existing laws, with Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos) being scrapped on the grounds that they were seen by some offenders as a badge of honour.

Home Office minister Jeremy Browne said victims of anti-social behaviour would be able to have their say on out-of-court punishments of offenders.

"Victims of anti-social behaviour and low level crime often feel powerless," he said.

"Our reforms will place power back in the hands of the people, giving them a proper say in how their local area is policed."

The plans have been welcomed by Joanne Binns, 39, who was driven from her Leeds home six years ago by a gang of youths.

"It was like no matter what I did, they were tormenting me and my family. We couldn't go anywhere, we couldn't sit in our own home," she said.

It took a year to bring some of the offenders to court, by which time she said she had had enough.

"Even in our own home with the curtains closed there were bricks getting thrown, graffiti drawn on our house, it was just a life of hell," she said.

In the six years since then, Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police say they have worked with other agencies to create a more effective system to deal with anti-social behaviour.

Police Superintendent Keith Gilert, the council's chief community safety officer, believes many of the Government's proposals will help them to do even more.

"What we find here in Leeds is that an awful lot of these issues can be dealt with at quite a low level and can be resolved through mediation and negotiation between the parties," he said.

Under the changes, more punishments would be dealt with outside the court system, with police, councils and others working together to create a local 'menu' of ways to deal with offenders.

Victims could be asked whether they want an offender to sign an Acceptable Behaviour Contract, take part in alcohol or drug treatment, pay compensation or repair damage.

Ms Binns, who now works with her council to improve communities, says she cannot wait for the Bill to be passed.

"With Asbos they can tell them where not to hang around, where not to go, but they can't tell them to go on a drug rehabilitation course," she said.

"With the new Bill we can, so it's going to help perpetrators, but also give the victim a voice, and that's what my main concern is."

The draft legislation is now open to public consultation and will be scrutinised by the Home Affairs Select Committee.

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