Councillor Lauren Kendall criticises DoJ proposals to amend Anti-Social Behaviour legislation.

In response to a recent consultation by the Department of Justice and Department for Communities, the Green Party NI councillor for Holywood and Clandeboye said"Everyone should be able to live in peace, enjoy their homes and public spaces without being harassed or intimidated. However, what is proposed by the Department of Justice - lowering the ASBO threshold, revising the definition of ASB, and making housing associations Relevant Authorities - will only increase punitive responses to ASB, rather than supporting alternative or diversionary interventions which could reduce anti-social behaviour."

Speaking against Ards and North Down Borough's response to the Department of Justice Consultation, Cllr Kendall said "What constitutes 'conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance' can mean different things to different people. Seeking punitive responses based on vague definitions, and lowering  the standard of proof required from ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ to 'the balance of probabilities', raises issues of legal clarity and may breach the human rights of those subject to them, particularly children or those experiencing addiction or mental illness.  

Although there are little or no cases where an ASBO has applied to anyone under the age of 18 in Northern Ireland, the criminal age of responsibility is still 10 years old here.  A fundamental breach of an ASBO can carry the penalty of a custodial sentence, therefore we are proposing to increase the potential of the stigmatisation and criminalisation of children or potentially vulnerable people.   

With prison populations on the rise, expected to reach 2000 prisoners by Summer 2024, condemned prison blocks being reopened, and many people held on remand before they are convicted and sentenced, we need to be seeking alternative not punitive interventions to ASB.  We must divert people, children and young people in particularly, from a life in the justice system where we can."