My hon. Friend makes an interesting point, but antisocial behaviour can happen in any community. Government Members ought to listen to the people they represent, who do not wish to see them watering down the responses and toolkit available to tackle antisocial behaviour.
To refer again to my experience, Lambeth council increased the use of ASBOs to achieve a reduction in antisocial behaviour not for the slogans or press releases, or to try to look tough, but because it was needed to get a grip of our streets and return confidence to the law-abiding majority of residents. Government Members cannot tell me that ASBOs do not work because I saw how crime fell when a newly elected Labour council worked alongside the police to use ASBOs to great effect in making our streets and our communities safe again.
ASBOs work in part because they are backed by a criminal sanction. Breaching an ASBO is not something to be taken lightly—it is a criminal offence. Persistent antisocial behaviour is deeply damaging to local communities, and people expect effective sanctions. With Labour’s ASBOs, that is exactly what they got. Instead, the Government propose to take away the criminal sanction. Offenders can breach IPNAs in the full knowledge that they are not committing a crime. If the police or local councils want action taken against someone who has breached their IPNA and who is terrorising a local community, they will not get support from the criminal justice system. There is no automatic penalty. Instead, the breach of an IPNA will lead to the potential of civil action brought under the contempt of court proceedings. Offenders across the country will be rejoicing that the Government have gone soft, while the law-abiding majority will be horrified.
The Government’s proposal is not only a weak response to antisocial behaviour, but the police and local councils will pay for it themselves. Instead of criminal proceedings being brought by the Crown Prosecution Service, the police will have to bring a civil action in the courts at their own expense.