Blair's baby Asbos: Families face being removed from their homes and housed in special 'sin bin' residential units guarded by security officers and monitored by CCTVThe Telegraph
Oct. 09, 2005
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Sweeping powers to clamp down on young offenders and problem families are being drawn up as Tony Blair steps up his war on the "yob culture" plaguing the streets.
The Prime Minister has ordered his officials to prepare radical measures to drive through his "Respect" agenda, including "baby Asbos" to be targeted at problem children who could be younger than 10.
Downing Street staff, working under the guidance of Louise Casey, the controversial anti-social behaviour "tsar", are preparing a hard-hitting Bill that Mr Blair wants to see introduced into Parliament before the end of the year, The Sunday Telegraph understands.
It will target binge-drinkers, parents of out-of-control children, and "nightmare neighbour" households. The worst-offending families face being removed from their homes and housed in special "sin bin" residential units guarded by security officers and monitored by CCTV.
News of the Prime Minister's action comes after a series of leaked memos showed how Mr Blair despaired of the ability or willingness of Home Office officials to force through the sort of tough measures on anti-social behaviour that he wants to see implemented.
He has declared that his "Respect" agenda will be at the centre of his third - and final - term in Downing Street.
In a particularly eye-catching element, No 10 officials are working on baby anti-social behaviour orders - or "Basbos" - which could be applied to problem children and would be seen as a less harsh version of the Asbo.
Full-scale Asbos can be given only to people over 10, the age of criminal responsibility. Those subject to Asbos are banned from committing certain anti-social acts or from entering certain areas, and are named and shamed by having their photographs and identities published.
The Basbo may see, for example, a troublesome child barred from verbally abusing neighbours or from entering parts of an estate. However, it would be a lighter sanction than a full Asbo, and youngsters would be highly unlikely to be named and shamed.
Ms Casey and Downing Street officials are said be proceeding with "extreme caution" over baby Asbos, amid a welter of legal warnings about the difficulty of treating children - particularly those below the age of criminal responsibility - in this way.
For these reasons, it is thought unlikely that the Basbo plan will be ready for inclusion in the "Respect" Bill that is being drawn up, and will have to be implemented later.
Instead, the Bill will focus on four main areas:
• An extension of the system of parent orders, which force families to seek help to improve relationships and discipline when children run out of control. This may include some parents being sent on residential courses.
• Tougher measures against binge-drinkers, which could see repeat offenders being named and shamed in a similar way to those given Asbos.
• A sliding scale of punishment for "neighbour from hell" families, ranging from fines and benefit cuts to the ultimate sanction of having their right to live in council accommodation terminated.
• Repeat offender families to be housed in special units, guarded by security officers and monitored by CCTV cameras in a nationwide expansion of a successful scheme being operated in Dundee.
In his speech to the Labour Party conference last month, Mr Blair promised a "complete change of thinking" to tackle the growing problem of yobbery, but admitted he had been late to appreciate the scale of the difficulties.
The Prime Minister, The Sunday Telegraph understands, sees the Home Office, which he believes is stuffed with "woolly liberals", as part of the problem. However, he does not blame Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, personally, and accepts that Mr Clarke has his hands full with anti-terror legislation.
Mr Blair thinks the person he can trust to get to grips with his "Respect" agenda is Ms Casey, who reports to him as well as to Mr Clarke. She hit the headlines recently for a foul-mouthed speech at a Home Office-organised conference.