New Measures to deal with Anti-social Behaviour take effect

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Michael McDowell, T.D., today stated that new measures in the Criminal Justice Act 2006 to deal with anti-social behaviour - ASBOs - will come into operation, for adults, on 1 January 2007 and for children (at least 12 years of age and below 18) on 1 March 2007.

These measures will allow senior Gardaí to apply to the courts by way of civil procedure for an order prohibiting certain behaviour by a person. The question of a criminal offence will arise only if the recipient wilfully defies the order and continues to engage in the behaviour which is the subject of the order.

Regarding ASBOs for children a separate range of procedures to apply to young people have been developed which were framed in the context of the overall philosophy and policy that underpins the Children Act and contain significant additional features to the civil orders for persons over 18.

Making the announcement the Tánaiste said, "Apart altogether from the menace of career criminals involved in drug and gun crime, there is also concern about lower level anti-social behaviour causing serious interference in the lives of people, and especially the most vulnerable, in our communities.

While some people have the financial resources to seek private law injunction-type remedies to protect their rights to enjoyment of their property, many do not.

I believe that the State should ensure that similar protection is available to all our citizens. That is why, in the Criminal Justice Act 2006, I introduced new measures to allow a senior Garda to apply to the courts in deserving cases for a civil order prohibiting a person from acting in an anti-social way.

These orders, used in a focused way, have the potential to be of real and practical benefit to our society. The carefully worked out mechanisms for dealing with children will further add to the range of early interventions available to deal with children at risk and prevent their progression into more serious offending."


29 December 2006

Note for Editors

Anti-social Behaviour Orders

ASBOS will come into operation, for adults, on 1 January 2007 and for children (at least 12 years of age and below 18) on 1 March 2007.

An Garda Síochána has assured the Department that from 1 January 2007 the PULSE system will be used for the administration of ASBOs. It is understood that further development work is being carried to integrate the administration of ASBOs fully into the PULSE system.

Offending behaviour will arise where an individual causes or is likely to cause harassment or significant or persistent alarm, distress, fear or intimidation to anther person. Or where there is significant or persistent impairment in the use and enjoyment of their property by the other person. While the effect of the behaviour on the person must be the critical factor, it will be a matter for the Gardaí to determine if a complaint is well founded. The behaviour triggering the measures would not be once-off or minor incidents but rather 'significant and persistent'. Ultimately however, this will be a matter for the court to decide.

In designing the system for civil orders a range of safeguards have been incorporated to ensure that orders will only be sought as a last and not a first resort. Some of the safeguards are:

  • the definition of anti-social behaviour is designed to ensure that the orders are used to meet the real and serious needs of communities;
  • only a senior Garda is empowered to apply to the Courts for orders;
    the Court may only grant the application if it considers an order is a reasonable and proportionate remedy;
  • before the making of an application for an order may be considered, there will first be an explicit duty to formally warn a person to cease the offending behaviour;
    the orders will operate for a maximum of two years (unlike the UK where they operate for a minimum of 2 years);
  • the Court will be able to grant legal aid in appropriate cases;
  • full rights to appeal against an order or to have it varied are being provided; and
    the penalties for breach of an order will be a fine not exceeding 3,000 euro or a maximum of six months imprisonment (unlike the UK where the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment).

Behaviour Orders for Children

The Minister for Children, Mr Brian Lenihan T.D., has developed a range of separate procedures to apply to young people which were framed in the context of the overall philosophy and policy that underpins the Children Act and contain significant additional features to the civil orders for persons over 18. Every effort is made to provide an opportunity for the child and his or her parents or guardians to address the behavioural problems in a way that minimises contact with the criminal justice system. These proposals, which come into effect from 1 March next, will also ensure there will be full parental involvement at all relevant stages.

There are a number of steps which must be undertaken before an application for a behaviour order for a child can be made to the courts. These include a written warning procedure, a meeting involving parents and Gardaí, a good behaviour contract and possible referral to the Garda youth diversion programme. If, at the end of this process, the relevant superintendent feels that there is still a risk of the child continuing the anti-social behaviour, he may apply to the Children Court for a behaviour order.

The behaviour order can set out a number of things:

  • a prohibition on the child behaving in a specified manner at or in a specified place,
  • a requirement to attend school, report to a member of the Garda Síochána, a teacher or another person in authority
  • provision for supervision of the child by a parent or guardian

Like their adult equivalent the order can remain in force for a maximum of 2 years. There is provision for an appeal of the making of the order to the Circuit Court. It will be an offence not to comply with an order. The penalties for this offence are a fine of up to 800 euro or detention in a children detention school for a period not exceeding 3 months or both. It is intended that such an outcome will only happen when all the other options set out above have been considered and found not to be suitable.