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News Article Blair plans 'baby Asbos' to curb unruly under-10s (9th October 2005)


CHILDREN below the age of 10 will be subject to antisocial behaviour orders for the first time under sweeping new powers to combat yob culture.

The “baby Asbo” or “Basbo” would see a troublesome child barred from verbally abusing neighbours or banned from parts of an estate. But it would be a lighter punishment than a full Asbo and youngsters would not be named and shamed.

The move comes amid growing concern in No 10 over “pre-teen” crime and antisocial behaviour. However, government lawyers are concerned about the move because the law says a child under 10 cannot be held responsible for a crime.


Recently a 10-year-old boy from Liverpool who terrorised his community was given an Asbo, although the judge refused to allow his name or photograph to be made public, saying his parents were equally to blame for his problems.


Officials in the government’s new “respect unit” are drawing up the package of measures to tackle young tearaways and “neighbours from hell”.


A “respect bill” will be introduced in the Commons before Christmas implementing further measures to curtail the activities of problem families. Tony Blair was planning to announce the plan at his October press conference, but details were leaked last week.


The other measures include:

The controversial respect bill is being secretly drafted by Downing Street officials. The prime minister has told his officials that the bill is a top priority as he seeks to demonstrate that his mind is fully focused on the domestic agenda once more.


Unusually, the bill is being drafted by No 10 with the intention of putting it straight into law, rather than the usual Home Office consultation paper.


But Blair wants immediate action; he recently appointed his favourite civil servant Louise Casey to head the respect unit and report directly to him. She wants to see practical measures “which work” brought in speedily.


Some of the measures in the bill were inspired by a trial project in Dundee, where problem families were sent to “sin bins” and monitored and advised by social services. Although opposed by locals when it was first set up, it has since been recognised as a powerful social tool.


Recently Blair backed Casey in a clash with John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, after she requested a £90m fund for the respect agenda.


Casey came to public notice when she was recorded during an after-dinner speech defending binge drinking, boasting of getting “hammered” and mocking ministers, saying they would work better drunk. The prime minister saved her job and has backed her views on ways to tackle antisocial behaviour.


He is said to have sided with her against Charles Clarke, the home secretary, when she criticised “evidence-based” policy built on statistics, recently telling Clarke at a private meeting that he needed “a sense of conviction” about the antisocial behaviour agenda