Is ‘annoyance and nuisance’ enough to get a criminal record?
So when you were 10, 12, 15, could you be ‘annoying’? Could you be a ‘nuisance’?
I interviewed my grandmother recently about what she did as a young girl.
She is now nearly 90 and has led, I think it’s fair to say, an almost blameless life. Yet as a young girl her and her group of friends would run up to houses, knock on the doors and run away…
Well if the new Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill 2013-14 gets passed, behaviour that my grandmother got up to could conceivably land her with a criminal record.
I’m no expert on this sort of issue – I’m an ex-teacher, done some community development, and spent the last five years promoting and leading programmes and campaigning to get kids more freedom to play. But my colleagues at the Standing Commitee on Youth Justice are. As are the Association of Chief Police Officers. Both of these bodies are concerned that ‘annoyance and nuisance’ are just too wishy-washy, too subjective.
I get called every few weeks because a child is threatened with an ASBO for playing football in the street, for drawing hopscotch squares or for climbing trees. Luckily most of the time the police see sense – it’s such a waste of their time – but the damage to the child, the family and the community is done. People don’t remember that the kids didn’t actually get an ASBO. They remember that it was threatened. And another kid, when they ask to go and play out, will now be told ‘no’.
So I and Mike from Play Wales emailed everyone in our address books, and literally 24 hours later we had over 50 signatures to a brief letter that was today published in the Times.
You can read the original letter on Play England’s website.
The Standing Committee on Youth Justice is recommending that Government retains the current definition of ‘anti social behaviour’ as ‘causing harassment, alarm and distress’, and that additional measures to support children with special needs, especially with mental health issues, are introduced. They state that simply widening the net of what counts as anti-social behaviour will do nothing to help alleviate the distress that real anti-social behaviour can cause.
We are supporting them in opposing this move as it will just be one more barrier that 10 year olds and upwards face to playing outdoors. Will you join us?