Antisocial Behaviour

Home Department written question – answered on 16th January 2007.

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Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham PPS (Mr Mike O'Brien, Solicitor General), Law Officers' Department

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what powers are available to deal with parents of children who display antisocial behaviour in their local communities.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State, Home Office

Where assessment indicates this is in the interests of preventing a repetition of antisocial behaviour by children and young people up to the age of 17, Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) can apply for a parenting order under section 26 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003. A parenting order can also be made under section eight of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 on conviction of a juvenile or where an antisocial behaviour order, child safety order or parental compensation order is made. A parenting order requires the parent/s to attend a parenting programme and to comply with specific requirements in the interests of preventing a repetition of the kind of behaviour that led to the order being made. Breach of a parenting order is a criminal offence and can result in a fine of up to £1,000 and/or a community sentence.

YOTs also have statutory power, under section 25 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, to enter into parenting contracts, with parents whose child has engaged in, or is likely to engage in, criminal conduct or antisocial behaviour. The contract would include specific ways in which the parents agree to exercise control over the child and to attend a parenting programme. If parents refuse to enter into a contract or fail to comply with one, the YOT may apply for a parenting order.

Parenting orders can also be made under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 following prosecution of parents for their child's non-attendance at school. Section 19 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 provides local authorities and schools with the power to enter into parenting contracts to help address children's behaviour and attendance at school. Section 20 of the Act provides that local authorities can also apply to the courts for a parenting order where a pupil has been excluded permanently or for more than one fixed period as a result of serious misbehaviour.

These powers will be enhanced by the measures introduced in the Education and Inspections Act 2006 which from 1 September 2007 will: allow parenting contracts to be used as an earlier intervention (without the need for exclusion); enable parenting orders to be applied for by schools; and permit orders to be applied for where there has been serious misbehaviour but without the necessity of excluding the pupil.

The Education and Inspections Act also introduces a new duty on schools to arrange reintegration interviews following a pupil's fixed period exclusion from school. This duty will apply to all fixed period exclusions of primary-aged pupils and those of more than five days of secondary-aged pupils. These interviews will enable the school to engage formally with the parent and so assist the pupil's reintegration and improvement in his or her behaviour. It will be mandatory for parents to attend these interviews and failure to do so will be a factor which a court may take into account in any future application for a parenting order. Parents will also be required to ensure that their child is not present in a public place, without reasonable justification, during school hours in the first five days of any exclusion from school. If parents fail to be responsible for their child's whereabouts during this time, they will commit an offence. They may discharge liability for the offence by paying a penalty notice; however, failure to pay could result in prosecution for the original offence.

The Police and Justice Act 2006 enables a wider range of agencies, including local authorities and registered social landlords, to apply for parenting orders where children or young people have engaged in antisocial behaviour or to enter into parenting contracts where they have engaged in, or are likely to engage in, criminal conduct or antisocial behaviour. The Police and Justice Act 2006 will be commenced later this year.

Parental Compensation Order (PCO) powers were commenced in 10 local authority areas on 20 July. The PCO is a civil order designed to reinforce the responsibilities of parents of children under the age of 10. It requires parents to provide compensation if a child under 10 takes or damages property in the course of anti-social behaviour or behaviour which, if he were over 10, would have constituted an offence, and where it would be desirable in the interests of preventing a repetition of the behaviour in question. Compensation is limited to £5,000. The PCO is made in the adult magistrates court on application by the local authority. The court has the same powers to enforce payment as it does for fines.

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