Agencies condemn move to tag unruly teenagers

25th July 2003 at 01:00
Children's agencies are ganging up against the Scottish Executive's proposed measures on anti-social behaviour, including its controversial plans to tag teenage offenders.

One ex-young offender, featured in this month's magazine of the Children in Scotland agency, says tough-talking schemes are unlikely to work.

Jamie Floyd-Hastie, 20, says: "As for anti-social behaviour orders and electronic tagging of under-16s, it's supposed to keep them away from trouble. Will that be keeping them at home? Because, mostly, that's where the problems are. Telling a young person where they can and can't go wouldn't have stopped most of the kids I knew anyway."

Bernadette Monaghan, of Apex Scotland, a voluntary organisation that steers young people away from offending by improving education and job prospects, says: "The measures seem unnecessary. I don't really know what will be achieved. Anti-social behaviour orders and tagging pull more people into the system that don't really need to be there. Tackling the problems in a more informal way is better."

She points out that effective programmes between local authorities and the voluntary sector have helped slash the number of 16-year-olds sent to custody. In 1992, 226 were detained, in contrast to 92 in 2001.

Ms Monaghan said processes for dealing with young offenders, whether through children's hearings or youth courts, would not ultimately reduce their offending behaviour. "There is no single or simple way of helping young people who offend to change their behaviour, but there is evidence that community-based options are more effective than custody," she says.

Persistent offenders are likely to have "a full-blown set of problems", including family break-up, experience of residential care, exclusion from school and truanting, health concerns and substance misuse. Ms Monaghan argues that strategies should focus on holistic dimensions and less on "correcting their behaviour and individual deficits".

Alan Miller, principal reporter to the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration, wants the new Executive measures to dovetail with the whole-person approach of the children's hearings system.

South of the border, where anti-social behaviour orders have been in place for four years, Steve Taylor, of Shape, a coalition of voluntary agencies, admits that the public welcome the removal of young people from the streets. "The problem that I have with them is the way they label young people, particularly with the provision of naming and shaming young people which has led to cases being given a high profile in the media," he says.

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