H G Wells once said that “a newspaper is a device incapable of distinguishing between a bicycle accident and the end of civilisation.” I fear George Monbiot has proved him right.
His article [Guardian 7 Jan] paints an apocalyptic picture of the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill as an evil measure to end of our right to protest, our freedom of speech and our civil liberties. It is utter nonsense. If it was in any way true I can assure him that I would be the first to stand up and say so.
Although I have only been involved in the latter stages of the bill (I am not the architect as George describes me) I am confident that these new powers won’t stop people being able to sing carols or whatever else the scare stories say. That notwithstanding, since I took over the Bill I have introduced further safeguards for reassurance.
It will however help protect vulnerable people in society from anti-social behaviour, which, if allowed to grow out of control, can blight lives and causes enormous harm to our communities. For too long there has been a broken system for dealing with such behaviour. Labour’s ASBOs failed not only because they unnecessarily criminalise young people but because they do not help address the causes behind the behaviour.
These reforms are the result of an extensive consultation process involving local authorities, social landlords, the judiciary and the voluntary sector, and most importantly, victims and members of the public who have told us that they want a more measured and more effective response.
Our introduction of new injunctions to prevent nuisance or annoyance will not criminalise youngsters but address the underlying causes of anti social behaviour, nipping such behaviour in the bud before it escalates. Use of these new powers will require a long established test of proportionality, and courts will have to be persuaded of the need to grant these orders.
Hardly the end of civilisation, is it?