Top cop's warning to young thugs

WE'RE after you!That's the clear message today from a top Suffolk police officer to young thugs.Meanwhile the county's assistant chief constable has called on magistrates to come down hard on young troublemakers.

By James Fraser

WE'RE after you!

That's the clear message today from a top Suffolk police officer to young thugs.

Meanwhile the county's assistant chief constable has called on magistrates to come down hard on young troublemakers.

At the end of a week that has seen 14-year-old Luke Singleton banned from every Co-op in Whitton in Ipswich, teenage joyrider Sheldon Petrie jailed, and an epidemic of car vandalism across the town, police have pledged a crackdown on young louts.

Chief Inspector Alan Pawsey said there would be many more Anti-Social Behaviour Orders(ASBOs) to come.

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"This is only the beginning," he said. "There are others out there like him (Singleton). There are other ASBOs in the pipeline and those people need to very concerned.

The picture of Singleton on the front of the Evening Star summed up the attitude of a small minority of young people like him.

"The purpose of an ASBO is to take away fear from people suffering harassment and put it on to those who cause it," said Mr Pawsey.

"The idea of an order is to change people's behaviour. If people like Mr Singleton could see his way to changing his behaviour we would obviously be delighted.

"But if he can't, I am looking to courts to make an example and deal very severely with those who frighten and harass the people of Ipswich."

Assistant Chief Constable Colin Langham-Fitt urged magistrates to take a hard-line in dealing with yobs.

He said police officers despaired when youngsters were brought before the court but let off because magistrates felt the police should expect trouble from young louts.

An ASBO imposes stringent restrictions on a person's movements.

The next time Singleton steps into any Co-op store in Ipswich he'll be hauled straight into Crown Court and could face up to five years' detention.

The ASBO was introduced as part of the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, devised by then Home Secretary Jack Straw.

They offer a speedy way of dealing with problems which may not be criminal in themselves, but are a persistent nuisance and cause considerable distress.

The legislation became live the following April but the training of magistrates, police and council officers took time.

After a period of familiarisation with this fresh option for dealing with a community problem, the special order has gradually entered judicial language.

Singleton's behaviour was abusive, threatening and intimidating according to a Co-op shop manager whose staff and customers had been subjected to a two-year reign of terror.

Singleton threatened to shoot a shop assistant's head off with a ball-bearing gun – and he was unmasked after the Star successfully challenged reporting restrictions on under-age offenders.

So far six orders have been imposed, two most recently on Singleton's fellow tearaways Ryan Wade and Keith Leathers, both aged 16.

"There are still options that are available," said Jim Manning, Ipswich Borough Council's community safety officer who was responsible for the application to clamp down on the trio's activities.

"But it is felt that an ASBO which bars someone from an area sends out a very strong message. This shows that we are very serious in applying them and will continue to do so where appropriate. Obviously we will not tolerate this sort of anti-social behaviour."

The ASBO, however, is not solely directed against problem youngsters, although Mr Manning conceded that the applications have been made "in the main" against young people.

Whatever the age of offender, a banning order can be imposed – as 61-year-old Anthony Warne found out for his alcohol-related problem behaviour.

John Potkins, 32, was another whose antics associated with persistent glue-sniffing was deemed worthy of an ASBO.

Linsey Kilpatrick, 21, received a clamp-down on her movements for crimes that included assault and drunken disorderly behaviour.

A large amount of planning and preparation goes into applying for an order.

Depending on the case, the council and police work in partnership with the aggrieved party on how the problem is to be tackled.

Though either the police or the council can apply for an ASBO to be imposed, both have to consult each other before seeking an order.

Another innovative anti-nuisance measure is likely to seize headlines in the near future. The

Acceptable Behaviour Contract is a scheme by which troublesome offenders in much a younger age group admit their fault and sign up to a code of conduct.

Any breach of this results in the eviction of their family from their home, be it a council house or housing association premises.