Plea to magistrates to get tough

POLICE in Suffolk have called on magistrates to get tougher on persistent young offenders who cause misery in their communities. A senior police officer has spoke of his frustration that the courts are too soft on youngsters who breach Anti Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos), and give them a "second chance" when they have had many already.

POLICE in Suffolk have called on magistrates to get tougher on persistent young offenders who cause misery in their communities.

A senior police officer has spoke of his frustration that the courts are too soft on youngsters who breach Anti Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos), and give them a "second chance" when they have had many already.

Chief Inspector Chris Mayhew, Ipswich sector commander, said magistrates in some cases felt "obliged" to give youth offenders another chance because they did not realise the extent of police work involved before the case arrived in court.

"I do not think they fully understand the rigmarole we have been through and I think we would like to see courts take a more positive stance," he said.


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"In terms of the magistrates court, they feel obliged to give them a second chance. I am not sure they realise the lengthy process behind it.

"Offenders are not being dealt with as productively as we would like."

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The Government introduced the Anti Social Behaviour Order (Asbo) to provide police with an extra tool to deal with nuisance youths.

The orders, which ban individuals from entering certain geographical areas or premises, offer young criminals a last-chance punishment before a prison sentence is considered.

Asbos were designed to curb behaviour like theft, intimidation, drunkenness and violence by children and adults.

The orders, which are imposed jointly by the police and local councils, are civil rather than criminal and can carry a sentence of up to five years in prison if breached.

Mr Mayhew said when so much background police work went into making an Asbo, it left officers feeling frustrated when courts did not take positive action once the order was breached.

"It's frustrating when we don't see positive action being taken by the courts."

There are presently 26 people in Suffolk who are subject of an Asbo, 11 of which are from Ipswich, 14 in Waveney and one in the Forest Heath area.

Before an Asbo is given, police sign teenagers up to the Youth Nuisance Register which involves sending a letter home to their parents. If the offending continues, a police officer visits the family home to discuss the problem and finally, on the third occasion of offending, the Youth Offending Team is asked to get involved.

A spokeswoman for the Suffolk Magistrates Court Committee said it could not comment on the issue without knowing exact details of the cases involved.

Mr Mayhew said the Government had identified that magistrates needed more training in relation to Asbos and initiatives were underway to solve this.

Liz Pettman, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said: "I know there is a lot of work that goes into preparing Asbos in the first place and obviously if we are giving Asbos and they are committing more offences, the court giving them a second chance creates more work for us.

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