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JUDGE REFUSES TO 'NAME AND SHAME' YOUNG ASBO RECIPIENTS

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A top judge has refused to 'name and shame' three young thugs who have terrorised residents in the towns in which t...
A top judge has refused to 'name and shame' three young thugs who have terrorised residents in the towns in which they live.

Mr justice Elias was being asked to consider two separate cases involving an 11-year-old boy from Hemel Hempstead and two teenagers from an estate in Camberley, Surrey.

All three had been hit by anti-social behaviour orders after months of making the lives of their neighbours hell.

A judge at St Albans Crown Court ruled the 11-year-old could be identified, while Judge Terrence English, sitting at Woking Magistrates Court, found that the teenagers shouldn't be named.

Yesterday, Mr justice Elias, sitting at London's high court, refused to overrule either decision, and instead sent back both cases to the original courts for reconsideration.

The mother of the 11-year-old Hemel Hempstead boy, identified only as 'T', said later: 'My boy will be able to continue the progress he has made without being set back by unwarranted attention.

'Although he has always denied what he was accused of we will have to accept the ASBO.

'He was always influenced by older boys and may have said some stupid things, but after 9 months of waiting he is at last receiving extra help at school.'

His solicitor, Louise James, added: 'The family has faced a lot of difficulties, and have received no help from any of the social services. Only the school has shown any understanding.

'It is regrettable that, unlike the other kids involved, he was not offered an Acceptable Behaviour Contract, but at least he doesn't have to deal with being hounded by the press on top of everything else.

'There have been irresponsible and exaggerated press reports. The alleged victim was white, so reports of racial abuse are wrong, and coming from a travelling family himself, calling someone a gypsy, if he did, is hardly heinous abuse by the standards of the youth courts today.

'Newspaper claims that publicity is necessary to enable local communities to police these orders has worrying connotations.

'This is an encouraging ruling and may help to put a break on the current spate of demonising victims of social injustice.

'The current penchant for scapegoating, whether it be 'bad' parents, 'bogus' asylum seekers, or 'yobs', is an unattractive reaction in a society which seems unwilling to acknowledge the consequences of inequalities which permeate much of modern society from a community to a global level.

'It is clearly a lot easier, cheaper and more gratifying to condemn rather than examine and attempt to cure', she concluded.

The 11-year-old had smeared dog excrement on the face of a baby, and had also made Nazi salutes at a neighbour he wrongly presumed to be German.

A judge at St Albans Crown Court ruled he could be identified, while Judge Terrence English, sitting at Woking Magistrates Court, found that the teenagers shouldn't be named.

Yesterday Mr justice Elias - who said it wasn't only in 'exceptional' cases that 'naming and shaming' should occur - quashed both decisions, but instead of over-ruling them outright sent back both cases for reconsideration by the original courts.

The respective courts will now re-hear the cases in light of Mr justice Elias' judgement.

Earlier he had heard submissions on behalf of the Chief Constable of Surrey Police, calling for the two Camberley teenagers to be named.

They have been banned from three areas of Camberley - Main Square, Old Dean Parade and Collingwoood College - and barrister Mark Watson said identifying them would make the ASBO easier to enforce.

He told the court how Judge English ruled they shouldn't be named as the boys were making progress - despite one of them being in prison and the other threatening a witness during the four-day ASBO hearing.

The two had regularly threatened and assaulted shop-keepers, residents and staff at Collingwood College - which they do not attend - and had also caused criminal damage.

But, although he observed that the youths had committed a 'litany of offences' that had brought 'misery' to the local area, Mr justice Elias said it would be wrong for him to make an outright decision in such a 'problematic' case.

'The judge did hear the boys give evidence, and it may be that he was struck in one way by the character of one, and faced a dilemma because the naming of one could lead to the identification of the other,' he said.

Mr justice Elias did find that Judge English had been wrong to take into consideration the impact naming and shaming might have of members of the boys' family.

In the other case the judge found he wasn't 'satisfied' the St Albans Crown Court judge gave proper reasons for the decision to name the 11-year-old.

'I'm not satisfied the court has adequately revealed the reasoning process as to satisfy me that there has been a careful and considered balancing of the facts,' he said.

He added that there was doubt as to whether St Albans Crown Court had given enough weight to the boy's age and the fact it was his first brush with the judicial process, and pointed out that he had made 'considerable improvement' since the imposition of the ASBO.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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