Inspectors find partnership working and community education central to tackling anti-social behaviour
A new inspection report by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) has examined how the justice system addresses the issue of anti-social behaviour.
The report, published today (Wednesday 3 October 2012) has highlighted the importance of partnership working between the justice system and other Government departments in addressing the issue.
"Anti-social behaviour is a cross-cutting issue which requires significant partnership working in the areas of prevention, intervention and enforcement," said Brendan McGuigan, Acting Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
"The Community Safety Strategy launched by the Minister of Justice, David Ford MLA in July provides a framework for tackling anti-social behaviour.
"Inspectors feel this strategy has the potential to deliver a more coordinated approach to dealing with anti-social behaviour and have urged the Department of Justice to encourage organisations with responsibility for community safety matters, from within and outside the justice sector, to collaborate at a strategic and local level to take forward its implementation," said Mr McGuigan.
The inspection report also highlights the significant role the recently established Policing and Community Safety Partnerships (PSCPs) have to play in addressing and dealing with anti-social behaviour.
"PCSPs have a duty to educate local communities around the reality as opposed to the 'fear' of being subject to anti-social behaviour and crime. Engagement and increased knowledge in this area would engender greater understanding about what justice agencies can and cannot deliver," said Mr McGuigan.
In addition PCSPs have an important role to play in providing community input to the decision-making process around how anti-social behaviour is addressed. This can be achieved through sharing of knowledge and facilitation of communication and discussion between independent members of the community, political parties and statutory agencies,
The Acting Chief Inspector said the need for early intervention around anti-social behaviour was a reoccurring theme within the inspection report, particularly when dealing with young people.
"It is a commonly held public view that anti-social behaviour leads to engagement in more serious offending, therefore agencies have a responsibility to tackle it. While not every individual who engages in anti-social behaviour will go on to offend, there is a need to intervene at an early stage where appropriate, with a suitable solution.
"Doing so helps prevent future offending, protect victims and prevent deterioration in local community environments," he said.
Appropriate early intervention he stated, can help prevent individuals and young people in particular from ending up subject to an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) or within the formal criminal justice system.
"ASBOs are one of a number of tools available to authorised agencies such as the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and local councils to address anti-social behaviour," said Mr McGuigan.
"They continue to be a source of debate and divided opinion - especially as around 40% of ASBOs are granted against young people aged under 18 years."
In light of this Inspectors have recommended that where ASBOs are issued to young people under 18 years, a package of support aimed at encouraging behavioural change should form part of the conditions applied.
They have also suggested that ASBOs granted against individuals who are under18 should be automatically reviewed every six months with the potential for it to be quashed or its have conditions amended if appropriate