Catholic charities highlight risk of criminalising children

The following letter appeared in the Times newspaper on Wednesday 31st October.

Dear Sir,

Whilst we recognise the harm that anti social behaviour can cause victims, especially vulnerable and elderly people, we have serious concerns about many of the proposed changes within the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, coming before the House of Lords tomorrow.

As a coalition of Catholic Charities, who work to support children and their families, we are extremely concerned that the widening of the definition of anti-social behaviour to encompass behaviour “capable of causing nuisance and annoyance” is too broad and risks unduly criminalising children.

We also have real fears about the plans to extend the use of custodial sentences and family evictions. In the majority of cases, imprisonment of young children would be a wholly inappropriate and counterproductive measure. The reduction in judicial discretion over eviction proceedings also risks putting the wellbeing and welfare of a whole family in jeopardy as a result of the actions of a single child.

Whilst it is important to address the misery caused by anti-social behaviour, we hope that the Government will take steps to ensure that such severe sanctions are only used in the most serious cases, as a last resort.

Yours faithfully,

 

Rt Rev Bishop Brain, Bishop of Salford

Cathy Corcoran OBE , Director of the Cardinal Hume Centre

Sr Lynda Dearlove MBE, Chief Executive of Women@theWell

Sr Colette Cronin, Congregational Leader of Institute of Our Lady of Mercy

Helen O’Brien, Chief Executive of CSAN

Jim Cullen, Director of Caritas Care

Andy Keen-Downs, Chief Executive of Pact

Dr Rosemary Keenan, Director of Catholic Children’s Society, Westminster

Keith Fernett, Director of Anchor House

John Coleby, Director of Caritas Westminster

Sumerjit Ram, Chief Executive of Faith in Families

Steven Webb, Director of Brentwood Catholic Children’s Society

Kathleen Pitt, Chief Executive of Nugent Care

Tim Bradford, Chief Executive of Father Hudson’s Society

Kate Nightingale, Chief Executive of St Vincent de Paul Society

Eugene Dugan, Director of Irish Chaplaincy in Britain

Mary Kilcoyne, Director of Catholic Children’s Society, Shrewsbury

Austin Donohue, Director of St Cuthbert’s Care