Top gardaí dismiss opposition to Asbos as ‘scaremongering’

SENIOR gardaí have strongly backed antisocial behaviour orders, Asbos, saying there was a “definite need” for them.

The Association of Garda Superintendents (AGS) described as “scaremongering” some of the arguments being put forward by organisations against Asbos.

In its first public endorsement of the controversial scheme since it began on 1 January, the AGS said Asbos were a “vital policing tool” for the force.

AGS general secretary Anthony Kennelly said: “There is a definite need for them in modern Ireland. There are people out there who still think they can take the law into their own hands.”

Asbos were introduced for adults on January 1 by Justice Minister Michael McDowell. The scheme, with different procedures, will be extended to children on March 1.

Figures reported in the Irish Examiner earlier this month showed that 11 behaviour warnings — the first stage of Asbos — had been issued in the first month of the scheme.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors have backed Asbos. The scheme also has the support of Fine Gael and Labour.

However, it is opposed by a range of children’s and youth groups as well as civil liberties organisations and many academics.

Commenting on these groups, Supt Kennelly said: “It’s worth remembering that it is a civil order, not a criminal one. Some of the scaremongering that’s going on right now is drifting into the area of creative imagination.”

Speaking in the Garda Review, the journal of the GRA, he said Asbos were another “vital policing tool” for gardaí to work with.

“What about all the potential victims and the people who are being harassed and taunted by ill-behaved youths ... where are their human rights in all this?”

He said Asbos would not be used “willy-nilly” and that lessons had been learned from their use in the UK.

He said that are being used to target public order problems, unruly behaviour, people who cause upset and refuse to change their behaviour. Dr Ursula Kilkelly, an expert in youth justice and a lecturer in University College Cork, said a greater emphasis on the more welfare-orientated Children Act, which provides for a range of community-based sanctions, would work better.

“At best Asbos are a gimmick.”

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