Last Friday the South London Press ('SLP') printed the names and photographs of the four young men who are subject to ASBOs on the East Dulwich Estate. The decision to publish the information together with details about the terms of the individual ASBOs appears to have been the result of the increasing concern which residents on the East Dulwich Estate have expressed about the failure of the Council and Police to enforce the terms of the ASBOs - and the fact that so many residents on the Estate were completely ignorant of the fact that any ASBOs had been obtained. I have previously called on the Council to keep the Estate's residents informed but my pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
The SLP's decision to publish the details on Friday gave me no pleasure - I believe that it is primarily the Council's role to keep local residents informed of issues concerning anti-social behaviour in their communities and that the local newspapers should not need to be used for these purposes. But I believe that my view as to the need to identify individuals subject to ASBOs and the terms of those orders is shared by the majority of people across Southwark and by the borough's Police Commander.
An idea persists that ASBOs and implementing them is in some way illiberal. I disagree compeletely with this argument as it simply places the rights and freedoms of those who are subject to ASBOs above the rights and freedoms of their victims and other affected residents. Society is not perfect and sadly there are occasions when some people fall into circumstances which cause them to be alienated from the mainstream. This alenation can manifest itself through criminal or anti-social behaviour. But would we be helping these people if we simply forgave them their behaviour and took no action or would we, in fact, be condemning them to an ever-increasing cycle of alienation? Whatever we may think at times we do have a developed and effective sytem for helping those in need in the UK, and this system of support and help - manifested in so many government and voluntary agencies - is there if people seek its assistance. Sometimes it can be the intervention of the Police and courts which connects people with the support systems they need. So if we accept that we do have an effective support system, we must also recognise that it is necessary to have a system for punishing wrong-doers and those who indulge in persistent anti-social behaviour. Crudely put, there can be no carrot without the stick!
We hear a lot of complaints about the illiberalism of this government - but people are rather more reluctant to praise the record investment which has been made in so many of the country's most deprived communities - including our own, and the genuinely positive effect which that investment is having.
In so many ways we live in more liberal times when genuine equality and equality of opportunity are cherished. Let's not forget that before condemning ASBOs too readily.