Tougher sentences for yobs

IPSWICH'S anti-social youngsters were today given a warning that courts will get tough with them when new sentencing guidelines are published next year.

IPSWICH'S anti-social youngsters were today given a warning that courts will get tough with them when new sentencing guidelines are published next year.

And local MP Chris Mole said he hoped the new get-tough policy will act as a deterrent for persistent yobs.

Magistrates will be given clearer guidelines about how to deal with people who breach Anti Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos) – which could lead to more offenders facing custodial sentences.

Last week Gainsborough youth Thomas Crowley, 17, was sentenced to a total of 12 months' detention for a number of offences including breaching an Asbo.

But there has been criticism in the past from police and community groups that magistrates have not treated Asbo breaches seriously enough.

Government figures suggest that nationally 44 per cent of people subject to Asbos ignore the terms of the order.

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"To some extend you can say those figures show that in 56pc of cases ASBOs do work," said Mr Mole.

"But the new stronger guidelines that come in early next year should encourage courts take firmer lines with Asbo breaches," he added.

The Ipswich MP has received a letter from Home Office minister Hazel Blears setting out the new guidelines for magistrates.

"Dealing with anti-social behaviour is one of the government's key objectives over the next year, and I am pleased that these guidelines are coming into force to strengthen the hand of police and local communities," Mr Mole said.

Chris Bowler, director of legal services for Suffolk magistrates, said the new guidelines had been drawn up by the Magistrates' Association and the Lord Chancellor.

"They do not change things greatly – for a first-time offender pleading guilty to a breach of an Asbo the starting point is that they should be looking at custody," Mr Bowler said.

"That isn't to say they would automatically get custody – it would depend on the circumstances of the offence and the mitigation.

"But those guidelines are the same as those currently in force – however they do clarify the situation in some cases."

nDo you think the courts are tough enough in dealing with young troublemakers. Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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