Asbo teens ‘should avoid jail’

Judges will be told not to jail teenagers who break antisocial behaviour orders under new guidelines.

The sentencing advisory panel has argued most asbo breaches should be punished by a community order or fine, unless the breach involves harassment or causes distress.

Courts are advised to avoid “excessive” sentences for adults and impose a maximum imprisonment of two years, down from five at present.

“In principle custody should be used less frequently for youths,” the guidelines state, with a maximum sentence of one year imposed only on the most persistent offenders.

They continue: “Even where the custody threshold is crossed a custodial sentence will not be inevitable. The younger the offender the more likely that perseverance with community orders will be more effective than detention in preventing re-offending.”

The panel advises judges should “normally choose” community orders over juvenile detention.

The guidelines are subject to consultation and have already been opposed by politicians.

Shadow home secretary David Davis rejected any decrease in sentencing, saying only two per cent of breaches are punished with a custodial sentence under the existing rules.

He argued asbos had been touted as the government’s flagship policy, yet breaches are seemingly treated very lightly.

Mr Davis said: “At a time when drink-fuelled anti-social behaviour is literally destroying the lives of so many innocent people in our towns and communities this would be an insult to the public and contribute to an utter failure to protect the public.”

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman insisted there were no plans to change the sentencing provisions for asbos, but added it would feed into the consultation.

The sentencing advisory panel said the review was necessary as courts are regularly disciplining offenders for breaking asbos, as the number of both orders and breaches continues to rise.