HC Deb 08 July 2002 vol 388 cc595-6
4. Ms Ann Coffey (Stockport)

What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of acceptable behaviour contracts. [64748]

The Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety (Mr. John Denham)

We believe that acceptable behaviour contracts have proved extremely useful in preventing or restraining antisocial behaviour before formal legal sanctions are taken. We have commissioned a survey of schemes in England and Wales, while conducting a thorough evaluation of the original scheme in Islington. We would certainly want to encourage the wider use of acceptable behaviour contracts.

Ms Coffey

I thank the Minister for that reply. The youth offending team in Stockport has been very active in drawing up such contracts, particularly with youth offenders whose criminal activities are accompanied by threats and intimidation. Thirty of those contracts have been signed already, and only five have been breached. I believe that they are very effective because, on one hand, the breaches have serious consequences and, on the other, a lot of positive help is given in dealing with underlying problems such as drug or alcohol abuse, or indeed school attendance problems. Will the Minister join me in congratulating those in the youth offending team in Stockport on the very good work that they are doing? Has he any plans to apply that approach to the probation service's work with adult offenders?

Mr. Denham

We are happy to congratulate those in the youth offending team in Stockport on their work. People tackling antisocial behaviour in many parts of the country are certainly using acceptable behaviour contracts in a way that makes it very clear what behaviour is required and what action—possibly eviction from a tenancy, or a formal antisocial behaviour order—will follow if the contracts are breached. They are very effective. Acceptable behaviour contracts can certainly be used with adults, and that is being pioneered in several parts of the country. In the right circumstances, they can be as effective with that group as they can be with young offenders.

Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks)

Does not the welcome use of acceptable behaviour contracts simply underline the complete failure of the bureaucratic antisocial behaviour orders, which the Government also pioneered? When will the Government get a grip on the rising tide of petty vandalism and aggressive behaviour in our neighbourhoods and parishes and introduce more local solutions such as those contracts?

Mr. Denham

The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong. Antisocial behaviour orders have been used with great effectiveness. They are particularly effective where they are used alongside acceptable behaviour contracts. The Police Reform Bill, which is currently before the House—in fact, we shall discuss it on Report tomorrow—contains a series of measures to make antisocial behaviour orders more widely and flexibly available and to enable courts to introduce interim antisocial behaviour orders so that they can be used quickly. I certainly hope that Opposition Members will do nothing else tomorrow or in another place to delay those measures being placed on to the statute book as quickly as possible, but I fear that that is their intention.

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