Agencies must prepare now to become more efficent under devolution

Northern Ireland’s Deputy Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice has urged local criminal justice agencies to give serious thought to how they can become more efficient in advance of the devolution of policing and criminal justice matters.

The comprehensive inspection report published today (17 October 2008) looked at how the police, Northern Ireland Housing Executive and 26 local councils were making their ASBO applications and undertaking their responsibilities since the legislation was introduced in Northern Ireland in 2004.
“Inspectors were pleased to find that overall there was a sensible approach demonstrated to the introduction of ASBOs in Northern Ireland,” said Dr Michael Maguire, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
The inspection report stated that the three agencies authorised to make ASBO applications had learned from the experience of colleagues in England and Wales in making their applications.
“CJI found the agencies involved were, in general, using a graduated approach to ASBOs, with alternative methods of dealing with anti-social behaviour also being considered and used where appropriate,” said Dr Maguire.
He continued: “ASBOs were generally applied for after anti-social behaviour had been occurring for more than six months, during which time, other methods of addressing the behaviour may have been tried without success. Inspectors also found that in the main, agencies sought ASBOs after a pattern of anti-social behaviour was observed, rather than in response to a single incident.
“The implementation of ASBOs has provided a further opportunity for regular discussion to occur between agencies on anti-social behaviour and how these issues can be addressed at local level,” added Dr Maguire.
Inspectors recommend these discussions should be extended to include other partner agencies such as the Youth Justice Agency, Probation Board, Social Services trusts and Education and Library Boards, so that all a collaborative, holistic approach to addressing anti-social behaviour is adopted.
The Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice said Inspectorate had found that some weaknesses existed in the collection and monitoring of information on the effectiveness of ASBOs.
“The collation of accurate, timely information around the number of times breaches occur, coupled with information surrounding the successfulness of alternative methods of dealing with anti-social behaviour, would be beneficial in helping assess the effectiveness of ASBOs as a method of addressing anti-social behaviour,” concluded Dr Maguire.