MumsnetGuestBlogs (MNHQ) Fri 25-Oct-13 15:12:49

Draconian new 'Asbo' laws will demonise teenagers

Next Tuesday, a new law which will enable the authorities to prevent children as young as ten from playing in the street will have its first reading in the House of Lords.

Penelope Gibbs of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice argues that it's time to stop demonising teenagers for 'being themselves'.

Penelope Gibbs

The Standing Committee for Youth Justice

Posted on: Fri 25-Oct-13 15:12:48

(47 comments )

Lead photo

The Standing Committee for Youth Justice says the proposed law is 'Draconian'

It’s a rare sight these days, children playing in the street. But a couple of months ago two ten-year-olds made the most of their newly tarmaced street in Thames Ditton, Surrey. They rollerskated on it. Their friends joined in. One of the local mothers said she “met a whole load of new neighbours - a real community spirit has come out of this”.

Then, without so much as a knock on the door, the local police delivered a leaflet claiming complaints had been received and “playing or other sports in the street is a criminal offence particularly where the activity has caused (people) annoyance, alarm or distress”.

Happily, on this occasion in the face of local uproar, the police changed their stance but it was a sign of things to come. New laws that are before parliament now will make it very difficult for teenagers just to be teenagers, doing normal teenage stuff, like ‘hanging out’. According to the new laws, if a policeman or someone from the local council judges that a 10 year old is “capable of causing nuisance and annoyance” the teenager can have a legal injunction slapped on them. This could ban them from skateboarding in the street or restrict where they can go. If a 14 year old flouts or forgets these rules, he or she could end up in prison for three months.

Already children spend much more time indoors or in cars than we did at the same age. Youth clubs are being closed thanks to cuts. Distrust prevails between many teenagers and the police and, too often, older people distrust teenagers too. This new law will make matters worse.


Already children spend much more time indoors or in cars than we did at the same age. Youth clubs are being closed thanks to cuts. Distrust prevails between many teenagers and the police and, too often, older people distrust teenagers too. So I’m worried that this new law will make matters worse. Teenagers want to hang around in groups, shout and yell a bit sometimes, and play games. But if the police gain Draconian new powers to outlaw normal behaviour, the message we send to teenagers is ‘be afraid of being yourself’. Anyone with teenage children knows how insidious this would be to happy development.

Some teenagers do go too far and make life pretty hellish for their neighbours. Playing loud music late at night, scribbling graffiti on walls and knocking on doors again and again can really annoy. But the answer isn’t to slap an injunction on the perpetrators and so push them into the legal system at a young age. Police, parents and local residents need to get teenagers to understand that what seems harmless to them, is blighting someone else’s life. I don’t think the children in Thames Ditton were in that league - but surely a more sensible approach would have been for police to have a quiet word, or mediated between the complainers and the kids.

The new laws are a rehash of the old ASBOs, but the new definition of anti-social behaviour is much wider. New Labour brought in ASBOs as a measure to prevent troublesome behaviour. Originally they were not supposed to be applied to under 18 year olds. But they were introduced in 1998 applying to children as young as 10 and 40% of all ASBOs have been put on children.

They don’t seem to have worked – over two thirds of the ASBOs imposed on children have been disobeyed. This is hardly surprising since ASBOs enforced strict and quite ridiculous rules. A 13 year old from South Shields was banned from riding his bike and seeing four of his best friends for two years, four children in Swansea were threatened with ASBOs for aggressive snowballing, and a 15 year old from Cambridge received an ASBO for persistent “hedge hopping”. Hundreds of children have been imprisoned for breaching their ASBOs, leaving them more likely to be drawn into committing serious crime. But ASBOs were beginning to wane in popularity as police found better ways to deal with the few teenagers who were being genuinely anti-social.

These new laws are likely to open the floodgates to all those who find teenagers “annoying” and want them shut away. I and others are campaigning hard to stop this new law coming in. If you don’t like the proposed law either, talk to your MP, write to your local newspaper or just spread the word.

By Penelope Gibbs

Twitter: @theSCYJ

Kendodd Fri 25-Oct-13 16:20:07

Agreed.

We need to start being a lot more tolerant of children just being children and playing in the street should be a think to celebrate not punish. This isn't to excuse children who do cause a lot of trouble and distress to residents but if all they are doing is playing then leave them alone.

enderwoman Fri 25-Oct-13 17:04:31

Blimey. I have a 12 year old who is currently "out with his friends" and Id be livid if he was stopped because of his age. I had no idea about this new "initiative"

I understand that some teens/kids cause problems and the old system of an adult telling off a child can't work as people are scared of being stabbed or attacked by the parents/gangs of said children but demonising teens is really not the answer.

What exactly do they expect teenagers to do then? Hide away in their bedrooms until they're 18? This is ridiculous! They're demonising a whole generation for no reason whatsoever. Youth unemployment is at an all time high, and now younger teens are being told they're trouble before they even walk out the front door. It's truly unbelievable.

In my experience (and I've lived in shitty deprived areas for 20 years) it's not teenagers and younger children that are the problem. In my area, the kids play out in the day, usually playing ball, skating, on scooters and bikes. Then a little later teenagers play football in the road. They don't do any harm at all. The ones that make all the noise and partake in anti-social behaviour are the drunken students, and older drunken teens/early twentysomethings on their way out, or coming home from a night out. I've had far more trouble with banging loud music, loudly revving cars, fighting in the street, vandalism and general anti-social behaviour from supposed adults (those over 18) than from younger teens and children. I's much rather hear children or teenagers playing football, skating etc than listen to the screaming drunken rants of the younger adults around here!

fortyplus Fri 25-Oct-13 21:26:22

My 18 yo son was walking home from his friend's house late one night - dressed all in black wearing a hoodie and a back pack. A police car cruised up and down past him 4 times, checking him out.

When he told me about it he said 'Mum I was desperate for them to stop and search me!' When I asked why, he replied 'Because I was on my way home after the end of term concert. I was wearing black because I was stage crew and in my bag I had a Willy Wonka chocolate bar, an Easter egg and a note from my teacher saying than you for all my help! I thought it might change their idea of a stereotypical teenager'.

moldingsunbeams Fri 25-Oct-13 22:53:38

"“playing or other sports in the street is a criminal offence"

shock really? Since when.
I know some kids can be a pain in the ass. We have had experience of this but to demonise a whole sector of children because of it is scary.

Its sad that adults want to stop the next generations from doing the normal things they themselves grew up doing.

Do we all really forget what being a teenager was like?

timidviper Sat 26-Oct-13 01:20:11

wannabe I was just about to say the same about elderly people by us. They moan on about children always indoors on computers and how they played out from dawn till dusk yet the second a child dares to play outside they complain!

steppemum Sat 26-Oct-13 08:10:39

fortyplus - your son sounds ace, I wish they had stopped and searched (would have been even better if it had been on police and cameras grin)

I find this new law shocking. My 10 year old plays out, he and his friends hang out, and scooter around, we talk often about the boundaries, eg I heard they had done a bit of hedge hopping across some front gardens and we have stopped that, and talked about people's property etc. I would be horrified if he was picked up by police for being out and about.

The reason we let him do it is because we passionately believe he shouldn't spend all day behind the computer.

Makes me very sad, and angry that all teens get tarred with the same brush

fieldfare Sat 26-Oct-13 08:58:20

This is terrible. My daughter and her friends are always playing out in our street. It's a family oriented little cul-de-sac and the kids are on their bikes, scooters, roller skates etc or having water fights in the summer or playing with Nerf guns. Not a social menace, just getting some exercise and having fun outside. They are all respectful of others, not causing a nuisance and quite considerate.

I love to hear the kids outside playing. It makes me feel nostalgic for when my two did it.
My lovely neighbour came round one day to apologise for the noise one day.
I was shock and explained above.
Apparently there had been some complaints. In a private road with 4 bed det houses with large gardens. Designed for families.

Svrider Sat 26-Oct-13 12:28:31

I went to the park yesterday, with my 3dc
There were several teenagers "hanging around " and I have to admit I almost went to a different park

Within 10 mins two teenage boys were playing football with my 5yo son, one teenager was racing round with my 7yo dd on her bike and the last teenage girl was giving my 9 yo hair care tips

Abso indeed

MoominMammasHandbag Sat 26-Oct-13 17:07:20

I live on an estate of 4 and 5 bedroom houses. We moved here with our 4 kids assuming there would be loads of kids to play with. This is sadly not the case, there are loads of middle aged childless couples who go mad as soon as any child dares to play in the street.
A few years ago DS and his mates were in the habit of standing at the end of the 40 foot turning circle in the cul de sac, outside our house, about six feet apart from each other, chatting and passing a soft football on the ground to each other. The neighbour opposite went mad, ranting about his car and swearing at them. The ball never went within twelve feet of his car, which should have been parked on his drive anyway.
The upshot was, a policeman round our house threatening our lovely mild mannered, good as gold son with an ASBO, on the say so of some frother, basically for standing in the street rolling a football to his friends.
Absolutely ridiculous.

quoteunquote Sat 26-Oct-13 21:09:21

Totally ridiculous, my children play out every day as do most the children in our village, why would you want to stop them.

HopeClearwater Sat 26-Oct-13 21:48:29

I asked about the reasonableness of letting my kids play outside on MN a little while ago. Got a very mixed response with many posters totally against it.

CoolStoryBro Sun 27-Oct-13 01:14:18

A ten year old isn't a teenager. The issues for a 10 year old playing out are very, very different to the issues of a 15 year old hanging out.

prissyenglisharriviste Sun 27-Oct-13 05:06:43

Last child in the woods.candy.about.com/od/christmascandy/r/Minty-Chocolate-Covered-Cookies.htm
Goes wider than outdoors and into nature, but has a lot to say about this type of nimby nonsense.
Bah.

prissyenglisharriviste Sun 27-Oct-13 05:07:48

Rofl
Epic link fail grin

richardlouv.com/books/last-child/

Try that one!

BoffinMum Sun 27-Oct-13 10:20:30

Moomin, I would have let it be known that the family was all going on holiday for a fortnight and then sneaked back and let the bastard's tyres down or something. wink

BoffinMum Sun 27-Oct-13 10:28:14

My kids practically live outside, as do all the others around here. There is one neighbour who objects and she has two sedentary children herself who never seem to leave the house apart from to go to school. Everyone else applies a sensible mindset and lets them do anything within reason, telling them off collectively as necessary. In return the children behave pretty well and are polite to the neighbours, whom they see a lot socially as well.

Anyone trying to slap an ASBO on my kids will have to see me in the high court, with the rest of MN behind me.

sunbathe Sun 27-Oct-13 10:45:49

Why in the street though, as opposed to various gardens?

I had a lot of freedom as a child and we never hung around the streets.

We walked along streets, to get to our friends' houses, various parks and recs. We went to the village shop, along to wasteland, down by the canal.

Not just hanging around streets. That sounds really boring!

MoominMammasHandbag Sun 27-Oct-13 11:30:39

Hanging out is what teens do though. They hang out for a bit, then come up with a plan, like going to town or going to play tennis or something. They try and cadge some money off you and shoot off without telling you if they'll be back for dinner.
Then they come back and hang out a bit more.

prissyenglisharriviste Sun 27-Oct-13 14:11:09

Really difficult to skateboard or skate on grass, sunbathe.

VikingLady Sun 27-Oct-13 14:24:02

Sunbathe people don't all have gardens, or not ones that are big enough. We actually moved to our current house because there were a lot of kids playing out when we viewed! We're in a cul-de-sac and children from about 3 to 17 play/sit out. It's nice!

children shouldnt be allowed to play on the street on their own!! the kids on my road are left to their own devices,my husbands had new tyres put on the car through the kids throwing glass on the road! not too mention coming in our garden chucking stones,its like bloody lord of the flies! the mothers throw the kids on the street because they are bone idle! cant be bothered to raise their children want rid,leave the streets to raise them1 my kids stay in and have friends over ours,we bake do arts and crafts and it shows they are lovelly children to be with!

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