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Topics: Policy, Crime, Discourse, Antisocial personality disorder / Pages: 35 (8674 words) / Published: Feb 23rd, 2014
Critical Social Policy http://csp.sagepub.com/ Young people 'as risk ' or young people 'at risk ': Comparing discourses of anti-social behaviour in England and Victoria
Nathan Hughes
Critical Social Policy 2011 31: 388
DOI: 10.1177/0261018311405011
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  ATHAN HUGHES
N
University of Birmingham

Young people ‘as risk’ or young people ‘at risk’:
Comparing discourses of anti-social behaviour in England and Victoria
Abstract
Dominant discourses regarding concerns with anti-social behaviour in
England and Victoria, Australia, reveal counterposed perspectives; the former positioning anti-social behaviour as an issue of law and order and an extension of concerns with crime and victimization, and the latter emphasizing concerns with the vulnerability of the perpetrator. These opposing perspectives inevitably give rise to markedly different policies and interventions. In England, an emphasis on the needs of the victim prioritizes the prevention of particular behaviours, whilst interventions in Victoria seek to address the needs of the perpetrator that are seen to contribute to or result from anti-social behaviour. To illustrate this contrast, the paper highlights the particular effects of these contradictory discourses on young people, and in doing so suggests a need to be wary of the impact of resultant approaches on those who may be most susceptible to committing anti-social behaviour, or to having their behaviour labelled as such.
Key words: Australia, comparative, crime, respect, youth

In the UK, over the last decade, the term ‘anti-social behaviour’ has shifted from a political buzzword into common parlance and vernacular. Described as Tony Blair’s ‘crusade’ (Blair, 2004 cited by Squires,
2006), tackling anti-social behaviour became central to New Labour policy post-1997. The Anti-Social Behaviour Order (and even more so its acronym, ‘the ASBO’) seemingly gained a universal recognition amongst the British public, unlike that of any other criminal or civil order. The election of the Conservative-Liberal coalition government in May 2010 brought an end to 13 years of New Labour government

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in the UK. Inevitably this led to immediate and significant changes to many of the key, flagship policies of the outgoing government. One such change has seen the abolition of the ASBO. In announcing this abolition, Home Secretary Theresa May criticized such interventions for being ‘complex and bureaucratic’, and therefore difficult to enforce.
Signifying an apparent potential departure from previous strategies of tackling anti-social behaviour, May called for approaches that are ‘rehabilitating and restorative rather than criminalising and coercive’ (May,
2010). Given an apparent appetite for change, it is therefore timely to critically reflect upon New Labour policy in relation to anti-social behaviour and to consider the potential for redirection.
A survey of six European countries (ADT Europe, 2006, cited by Crawford, 2008) suggests that this growing public concern with and political focus on anti-social behaviour is not unique to the UK.
Political and public interest in anti-social behaviour is also apparent outside of Europe, and notably in Australia (Bor et al., 2004; Smart et al., 2004; White, 2007). There appears to be value, therefore, in comparing the rationales, discourses and approaches of different jurisdictions in attempting to address anti-social behaviour, particularly where seemingly shared social, cultural and legal traditions appear to give rise to markedly different political responses. In this article I offer one such comparison: contrasting the development of policy and practice in England to that in Victoria, Australia. In doing so I draw on data collected during a three-month visit to Australia as part of a Leverhulme Study Abroad Fellowship.
As noted by Pierson (2003: 80), ‘Britain and Australia are geographically rather distant, but this physical separation is outweighed by ties of history, culture, kinship and language’. As such, there is much that is similar regarding the context of policy development and delivery in the two countries. This has aided the development of a now well-established body of comparative British/Australian research and policy analysis, and associated ‘knowledge transfer’. However, to date, such a dialogue is not yet firmly established in the field of anti-social behaviour, despite the new and developmental nature of this policy and practice in both countries.
Notwithstanding these apparent contextual similarities, comparative British/Australian social policy research remains challenging and necessarily limited in its conclusions. In his analysis of housing policy,
Doling (1999) offers a useful categorization of comparative social policy research based on its emphasis on ‘context’, ‘content’ or ‘consequences’.

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The present study was necessarily limited to analysis of the ‘content’ of policies, interventions and practices. With insufficient time and incomparable data by which to compare outcomes, a study of consequences was infeasible. Similarly, limited attention was given to what Doling calls ‘context to content’ research, in which one might seek to identify the endogenous and exogenous factors that might explain why states vary in their policies and practices. Nonetheless, in spite of a lack of focus on context or consequences, comparative social research focusing on content remains valuable in this instance, allowing for a comparison by juxtaposition so as to highlight key differences and similarities, and in doing so critically reflect upon the presumptions and influences informing policy in each state.
In undertaking this comparison, I limit my focus to England within the UK and to the state of Victoria in Australia so as to provide meaningful contexts for comparison. The decision to focus on England is in recognition of the divergence of approaches within the UK (McAra,
2008; Edwards and Carr, 2008). The devolved responsibility for crime policy within a federal system of government means similar variation at state level within Australia. Victoria was chosen for the study owing to a provisional understanding of the markedly different approach to antisocial behaviour from both the UK and neighbouring Australian states.
Of course this is not to ignore significant variation within each state.
As argued by Muncie (1999: 152), in the UK, ‘Labour has enthusiastically embraced the logic that local problems require local solutions and that local authorities should have a legal responsibility to ensure that levels of crime are reduced.’ Hughes’ (2006) analysis of the ‘plural and contradictory’ nature of local strategies in governing anti-social behaviour provides evidence of such variation in this policy area. Furthermore, Prior (2007: 30) draws attention to the variation that results from the ‘revisions, resistances and refusals’ to national policy by those charged with its implementation in particular local contexts. Prior’s analysis suggests similar variation to be inevitable in Victoria. The discussion presented here is therefore necessarily a partial picture of policy and practice in relation to anti-social behaviour in both jurisdictions.
Whilst I acknowledge the complexity and variation in response, rather than seeking to map this complexity, I deliberately focus on the dominant state discourses.
This article will begin by exploring the particular political response in England under New Labour that has led anti-social behaviour to be defined in such a way as to construct a legal and social problem requiring

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a solution. In order to do so, the principal or dominant discourses, rationales and approaches surrounding anti-social behaviour are considered through an exploration of the statutory definition of anti-social behaviour in England, and how it reflects and supports some of the key rationales for tackling anti-social behaviour that are prominent in English political discourse. In particular I highlight an emphasis on protecting the victim and the community from acts perceived or defined as harmful.
This will be seen to sit in sharp contrast to the response to antisocial behaviour developing in Victoria. A comparison of the language used and the policy frameworks developed will reveal concern with similar issues; however, the distinct, yet equally pervasive discourses will be seen to lead to markedly different approaches to tackling antisocial behaviour. As such, whilst this behaviour is seen as equally problematic, it is responded to very differently. Instead of emphasis on the victim, the focus is almost exclusively on the perpetrator in considering the harm caused by such behaviour.
These different discourses will be seen to lead to markedly different frameworks for understanding and responding to anti-social behaviour; the emphasis on the enforcement of law and order within England is distinct from an emphasis on health promotion within Victoria. To illustrate this contrast in its starkest terms, the paper highlights the emphasis on young people within both discourses and frameworks. The particular impact of policy on anti-social behaviour in the UK on its young people is well documented (Burney, 2005; Squires and Stephen,
2005a; Stephen and Squires, 2004). Indeed some commentators suggest the terms ‘youth’ and ‘anti-social behaviour’ are almost synonymous in both the political and public conscious (Burney, 2005). Whilst a comparable synonymity is also apparent in Victoria, this instead will be seen to reflect a particular concern to protect young people from the potential negative consequences of their behaviour.
Both discourses fit firmly within Ulrich Beck’s (1992) notion of the ‘risk society’ of late modernity, in which risk and uncertainty have become ubiquitous, and provide further evidence of what De Neubourg and Weigand (2000: 401) describe as a trend towards ‘social policy as social risk management’, such that social policy is constructed as a series of ‘public interventions to assist individuals and households to cope with their risks’. However, the notion of ‘risk’ is constituted very differently.
Policy in England illustrates a discourse concerned with the risk to society caused by young people exhibiting anti-social behaviour, whilst the

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dominant discourse in Victoria emphasizes the risk to young people in engaging in such behaviour. Put simply, in England young people are predominantly perceived as ‘a risk’, whereas in Victoria young people are predominantly perceived as ‘at risk’.

The political response in England: Empowering the
‘pro-social’ majority
The definition of anti-social behaviour within the UK is provided by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998; tellingly one of the first major pieces of legislation from the incoming New Labour government. The
Act defines behaviour as ‘anti-social’ if it ‘caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household’ as the alleged perpetrator. The problems in applying this definition of anti-social behaviour are well documented (see for example,
Brown, 2004; Burney, 2005; Millie, 2008; Millie et al., 2005; Prior,
2009). Such a definition reveals much about the rationales, frameworks and discourses surrounding anti-social behaviour in England. Firstly, it very deliberately leaves the definition as to what behaviour is ‘antisocial’ entirely subjective. If it caused you harm, then seemingly by implication it is anti-social. Whilst a Home Office review (2004) provides a list of the sorts of behaviour that it considers of particular relevance, this does little but reinforce the breadth and subjectivity of the definition. The list includes a number of behaviours that already have operational definitions within the law; for example, criminal damage, arson, shoplifting and prostitution are already criminal offences. The inclusion of such acts exemplifies the clear overlap between the emergent concept of anti-social behaviour and long-standing legal definitions of crimes. However, other acts, such as ‘noise’, ‘intimidation’ or
‘throwing missiles’, remain ill-defined.
The elasticity of the chosen terminology ensures contextual variation in its application. As Millie (2008: 384) suggests, ‘the subjectivity and context specificity of anti-social behaviour means some behaviours will be unacceptable in one situation, but accepted, or even celebrated, in another context.’ Several examples are apparent. Millie (2008) describes the markedly different reactions to graffiti, proffering Banksy’s ‘street art’ as merely subjectively different to tagging or vandalism. Similar variation is inevitable in considering when ‘noise’ might be considered harmful or distressing. For example, what is considered to be excessive

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noise within a rural neighbourhood, with an older population, may go unnoticed within an urban area.
Given such an elastic concept and subjective application, we are therefore left with a definition whereby: virtually any activity can be anti-social depending on a range of background factors, such as the context in which it occurs, the location, people’s tolerance levels and expectations about the quality of life in the area.
(Whitehead et al., 2003: 4–5; a quote cited by both Jacobsen et al., 2005 and Millie, 2008: 382)

This appears to be a very deliberate ploy, deriving from one of the central and commonly voiced political rationales for tackling anti-social behaviour: to protect the law-abiding or ‘pro-social’ public from the minority in their neighbourhoods who are making their lives a misery.
This reflects ideas of a perceived majority of autonomous citizens who are able to regulate their own behaviour, and a minority, identified and targeted, whose deviance requires intervention. The anti-social behaviour agenda is therefore an attempt to give power to this majority to state what is and is not acceptable in their local area.
This rationale is highlighted by Garrett (2007: 848) who traces the influence of former home secretary David Blunkett on the development of New Labour policy. Blunkett is seen to have emphasized the need to forcibly tackle the behaviour of ‘neighbours from hell’, rather than to offer help and support to those committing anti-social behaviour.
Such a discourse is apparent in numerous passages of key legislative documents. For example, the Ministerial Foreword to the White Paper
Respect and Responsibility – Taking a Stand Against Anti-Social Behaviour states that:
Our aim is a ‘something for something’ society where we treat one another with respect and where we all share responsibility for taking a stand against what is unacceptable. But some people and some families undermine this. The anti-social behaviour of a few, damages the lives of many. (Home Office, 2003: 3)

Similarly the Respect Action Plan (Respect Task Force, 2006: 5) describes the ‘key goal’ as ‘to empower individuals and communities, enabling them not just to feel secure but to be more able to act together to make their neighbourhoods safer and better.’ The broad and subjective

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definition of anti-social behaviour is therefore intentionally empowering; it allows a victim, or indeed potential victim, to define what is harmful or distressing. In doing so, such a discourse frames the perpetrator in a particular way: as a risk to the victim, to the community, and to the standards of acceptable behaviour that the majority live by.
This proved a seductive political rhetoric and a powerful rationale for action, reflecting a genuine public concern with this issue.
The annual British Crime Survey suggests a consistent proportion of the population to perceive anti-social behaviour as a significant problem (Home Office, 2009). The 2008–2009 survey found that 17% of respondents perceive anti-social behaviour at ‘a high level’ in their local area; a percentage that has been statistically consistent since the 2003–
2004 survey.
In explicitly recognizing and responding to these concerns, the new legislative framework surrounding anti-social behaviour provides significant new powers by which this harmful behaviour can be dealt with, together with a statutory requirement to do so. Thus, when ‘The community sets clear standards of behaviour. The police, local authorities and others must enforce these standards and take swift, effective action if they are breached’ (Home Office, 2003: 7). The aim of new anti-social behaviour legislation is therefore to extend the reach of the criminal justice system in order to empower victims and communities to deal more effectively with this kind of behaviour. This reveals another rationale or justification for the heightened focus on anti-social behaviour: closing the perceived ‘justice gap’ within the existing criminal justice system (as discussed by Squires, 2006), whereby traditional criminal justice interventions are seen to be unable to effectively deal with collective or cumulative behaviour that causes harm or distress, being instead focused on addressing singular events that can be labelled as ‘crime’. Instead, civil legal action is seen to be required.
In analysing policy perspectives on anti-social behaviour, Jacobsen et al. (2008: 40–3) also identify the ‘broken windows’ thesis developed by Wilson and Kelling (1982), which argues that, if left unchecked, low level disorder (such as the breaking of windows) breeds the conditions in which crime will occur. Thus, if anti-social behaviour is not tackled, the implication is that the crime rate will increase. Jacobsen et al. (2008: 41) identify this discourse in the language of the Home
Office Respect website, specifically in the claim that anti-social behaviour ‘creates an environment where more serious crime can take hold’.
By framing concerns with community disorder in this manner, tackling

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anti-social behaviour becomes a clear extension of attempts to prevent crime. Once again the chosen definition reinforces this in its obvious overlap: crime is anti-social, and some anti-social behaviour is criminal.
Informed by a number of complementary analyses and perspectives, all firmly within a law and order discourse, we therefore see the development of a whole new raft of sanctions and punishments to tackle anti-social behaviour. A series of Parliamentary Acts, including the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, the Police Reform Act 2002 and the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, have established an array of new sanctions, orders and actions intended to prevent anti-social behaviour.
Such powers include Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), Parenting Orders, Dispersal Orders, Fixed Penalty Notices, Noise Abatement
Orders, Alcohol Free Zones, Termination of Tenancy Agreements, and so on. Each of the measures seeks to prohibit or curtail certain behaviours, for individuals, groups or whole communities. As such, it is the behaviour itself that is framed as the problem to be tackled. For example, an ASBO serves as a contract, the breaching of which is a criminal offence, even if the behaviour that results in this breach is not in itself a criminal act. Conditions might include, for example, curfews, not associating with named persons, or not going to certain places. Such conditions can only ever be prohibitive; recipients cannot, for example, be required to engage in particular activities, services or interventions.
It is important to note that the use of such legal powers was not the only response to addressing issues of anti-social behaviour (see
Prior (2007) for a discussion of preventative and community-based approaches, and Garrett (2007), who places anti-social behaviour within
Blair’s ‘remoralization’ of the welfare state through which support was to be conditional upon appropriate behaviour). However, these enforcement and contractual approaches maintained a high prominence and central role. It is not the purpose of this paper to repeat arguments for and (predominantly) against such measures (see, for example, Squires and Stephen, 2005b and Crawford, 2009). Instead I limit myself to highlighting this dominant discourse and its key traits.

Disempowering ‘the other’?
In summary then, the dominant discourse surrounding anti-social behaviour in England, as derived from its statutory definition, focuses attention on the social harm to others caused by the perpetrator. The

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(potential or actual) perpetrator is therefore perceived as ‘a risk’ to the community. The emphasis is therefore firmly on the need to protect the potential victim from this behaviour. This leads to a focus on the act of behaviour itself, with the primary aim of preventing this from (re) occurring. All of this ensures a law and order discourse is at the centre of concerns with anti-social behaviour, framed around the protection of the victim and the prevention of harmful behaviour.
However, there are clear and potentially dangerous assumptions within this discourse regarding the existence of a community consensus, or at least majority view on what is and is not deemed acceptable behaviour. The Respect Action Plan clearly and repeatedly highlights the importance of shared community values in successfully tackling antisocial behaviour. ‘Respect’, it is argued, ‘relies on a shared understanding and clear rules and is strengthened by people acting together to tackle problems and improve their lives’ (Respect Task Force, 2006:
7). Thus, ‘The conditions for respect . . . depend ultimately on a shared commitment to a common set of values expressed through behaviour that is considerate of others’ (Respect Task Force, 2006: 5). Such an assumption of shared perspectives is clearly at odds with the subjectivity inherent in the definition, as noted above. Whilst there are clear and obvious behaviours that are seemingly not acceptable in a ‘modern’ and
‘civilized’ society, this clarity does not readily transfer to the sorts of behaviour listed by the Home Office (2004) as ‘anti-social’.
In reality, understandings of what constitutes ‘order’ or ‘acceptable’ behaviour are likely to vary widely within any given community – as, indeed, are understandings of what constitutes a community. Clearly within, let alone between, the different age, cultural and ethnic groups that make up a local community, there are likely to be inherent differences of opinion about the acceptability of various forms of behaviour.
To return to the examples given above, graffiti and noise offer particularly pertinent instances of where different perspectives or perceptions of what is acceptable might be apparent within a community (Millie,
2008). Issues of diversity and cultural difference in defining and experiencing anti-social behaviour are explored by Nixon and Prior (2010) and the various contributions to their themed section of Social Policy and Society.
If the likelihood of varied perspectives is accepted, attention must then turn to issues of voice and relative power. The mechanisms by which particular perspectives are voiced and heard in defining what is and is not acceptable behaviour within a particular community and/or

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context have the potential to prioritize certain perspectives, and in doing so to allow sections of a community to define or label the behaviour of others as problematic. As such, there is a danger that the labelling of behaviour as ‘anti-social’ may not reflect its distressing or harmful effect, but a growing intolerance amongst particular vocal sections of society. Furthermore, the legislative framework provides a terminology for, and therefore a legitimation of fear, anxiety and mistrust, as well as the means to address it. This potential is explored by Stuart Waiton
(2008: 337) who contends that ‘the problem we face is ultimately not one of an antisocial society but of an asocial society.’ Waiton argues that the ‘myopic focus’ on anti-social behaviour reinforces the asocial nature of society. Rather than reflecting a decline in respect and moral standards, the voicing of such concerns is symptomatic of a perceived lack of control over standards of behaviour by the self-styled ‘elite’. He describes a ‘my bubble, my rules’ mentality through which this ‘elite’ perceives others as breaking these rules and attempts to address this; for example, by limiting the wearing of ‘hoodies’ or drinking on street corners. Whilst this portrayal of the processes of defining and tackling antisocial behaviour oversimplifies the complex picture of who is reporting victimization, and who is being reported as perpetrators, the potential
‘othering’ of the problem behaviour of certain groups within communities is apparent. For example, commentators have begun to highlight the potential misuse of such legislation against cultural, ethnic or religious minorities (Prior, 2010; Prior and Spalek, 2008). Particular attention has also been given to the impact of anti-social behaviour legislation on young people.

Tackling ‘anti-social youth’
Drawing on Goldson (2002) and James and Jenks (1996), Tisdall
(2006: 102) highlights the ‘different perspectives in youth justice and child welfare, where contrasts are made between the “evil” and “innocent” child, the “undeserving” and “deserving” child, and the “troubled” versus “troublesome” child’. Tisdall draws particular attention to those instances ‘when the two policy arenas come up against one another’. Youth justice policy clearly represents such an instance. The age-old contestation between the principles of ‘welfare’ and ‘justice’ within youth justice policy and practice has been reinvigorated by the

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post-1997 emphasis on prevention and early intervention, which can be variably constructed as criminalizing those who have committed no crime and may not even be of an age of criminal responsibility, or as protecting those at risk of the negative implications and outcomes that the future committal of a crime might bring (Smith, 2005).
Others present an even more complex story. Muncie (2006: 771) suggests ‘an amalgam of rationales’ to be at play, including ‘the caring ethos of social services, the neo-liberal legalistic ethos of responsibility and the neo-conservative ethos of coercion and punishment.’ (See also
Muncie, 1999.) Under the overarching policy framework provided by
Every Child Matters, the prevention of crime amongst young people has become just one outcome objective, connected to others that focus on various other aspects of young people’s social and personal needs
(Hughes et al., 2007: 220). Such an analysis fits with Gelsthorpe and
Morris’s (2002: 247, cited by Fergusson, 2007: 179) analogy of youth justice policy as ‘a melting-pot of contradictions, ideas and ideologies which may militate against each other’.
Whilst it is within this ‘melting pot’ that policy and practice relating to young people committing anti-social behaviour have emerged
(Tisdall, 2006: 102; Hughes et al., 2007: 220), research exploring the impact of the anti-social behaviour agenda on young people nonetheless consistently emphasizes notions of punishment, enforcement and justice. In the UK, the political focus on anti-social behaviour is almost synonymous with youth, further fuelling negative media perceptions about young people and their behaviour through the imagery of ‘hoodies’, intimidating street corner ‘gangs’, and a lack of ‘respect’. Given its intention to empower potential victims against the risk of distress and harm, the use of such anti-social behaviour legislation against young people is unsurprising, for ‘Nowhere is the public’s perception of risk more acute than in relation to young people or “youth” and the
(typically criminal) risks they ostensibly pose to themselves and others’
(Case, 2007: 91). This assertion is supported by the research of Squires and Stephen (2005a), who consistently found that the behaviour of young people was identified as the major concern in local communities. Whilst this is not to deny or excuse the negative behaviour of some young people, such research suggests that, through this policy agenda, the ‘demonisation of children and young people’ (Davis and Bourhill,
1997) is given fresh impetus, with Burney (2005: 67) arguing that
‘Anti-social behaviour has become a convenient peg on which to hang general prejudices about young people and their activities’.

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Reporting on the management of anti-social behaviour in one social housing estate, Goldsmith (2008: 223) presents an agenda dominated by adult definitions of ‘anti-social’ that often leave ‘children and young people exposed to intervention for a range of behaviours not necessarily identified by them as “anti-social”.’ Behaviour young people might consider to be ‘normal’ amongst people of their age may be targeted.
For example, noisy behaviour in public places, playing football in the street, or simply hanging around in certain places and in certain numbers, might all be seen as problematic in some contexts. Young people unsurprisingly report confusion in their understandings of exactly what is ‘anti-social behaviour’ and therefore how to avoid it; avoidance being particularly difficult when wanting to live their lives in public spaces, with friends, away from the watchful and inhibiting eye of their parents (Goldsmith, 2008: 228, 235).
This dominant portrayal of young people as the perpetrators of antisocial behaviour masks their likely victimization. Notwithstanding the problems of measuring levels of anti-social behaviour effectively and consistently, it seems likely that, as with crime, however we choose to define it, young people are disproportionally likely to be the victim. Even if we were to accept that young people are the chief perpetrators of anti-social behaviour, criminological research would suggest that their victims are commonly also young people. Young people interviewed by Goldsmith were left ‘feeling vulnerable, angry and frustrated at their perceived inability to influence these developments’ (Goldsmith, 2008: 223). This reflects an apparent lack of dialogue between young people and adults in relation to issues of anti-social behaviour and community safety. In some communities, young people seem to lack the voice to influence definitions as to what behaviour is or is not acceptable in their locality.

Young people ‘at risk’: An alternative discourse of anti-social behaviour
In combination, the analysis above suggests a political and legislative framework surrounding anti-social behaviour that emphasizes a law and enforcement approach designed to protect the potential victim, and the potential and actual disproportionate use of this legislation against young people. Young people are therefore readily perceived as ‘a risk’ to their communities, with enforcement measures made available to prohibit certain forms of behaviour that are seen as potentially distressing.

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This stands in sharp contrast to the approach apparent in the state of Victoria, Australia. Here an alternative discourse recognizes more prominently, and then prioritizes, the harm caused to the perpetrator by their behaviour, with anti-social behaviour seen as the cause of, or symptomatic of vulnerability. Within this discourse, the perpetrator is therefore seen as ‘at risk’, rather than ‘a risk’: at risk of causing themselves harm due to the negative repercussions of their behaviour; or
(more prominently in relation to young people) behaving ‘anti-socially’ due to a number of underlying negative factors or influences that are placing the young person at risk and therefore need to be addressed. As a result of this primary focus on potential or actual harm to the perpetrator, rather than on stopping the behaviour from (re)occurring (as is apparent in the law and order discourse of the UK), there is instead a focus on the causes of this behaviour, with particular recognition of the multiple needs of some particularly vulnerable people. This places antisocial behaviour within a broader policy framework concerned with the appropriate and healthy development of young people that recognizes the inter-linking nature of problems that can lead to involvement in negative behaviour, or occur as a result.
This alternative discourse surrounding anti-social behaviour, and the consequent approaches to addressing it, can be illustrated through two contrasting examples, both of particular relevance to young people: the policing of the 24/7 City of Melbourne, in seeking to combat excessive public drinking; and
„„ the use of voluntary activities designed to promote pro-social behaviour amongst young people exhibiting anti-social behaviour.
„„

An understanding of these approaches and the rationale behind them has been elicited through the perspectives of a range of stakeholders from various sectors and services, including those with responsibilities for policy development and direct service provision, and with an emphasis on both the City of Melbourne and state-wide provision. The time-limited nature of the Leverhulme Fellowship ensured a necessarily opportunistic approach to data collection and a need to be responsive to the availability and preferences of respondents. As such, both individual interviews and focus groups were utilized, all undertaken in
February and March 2009.
Fourteen interviews were undertaken in total. This included five interviews with senior practitioners or service managers, and three with

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practitioners who defined themselves as ‘frontline’ service providers.
These practitioners were drawn from five initiatives or services, three based in Melbourne and two serving the town of Geelong and its rural surrounds. In two of these service settings, I was also able to observe practice through the shadowing of practitioners for half day periods. A further four interviews involved civil servants with specific responsibilities for relevant policy development and implementation, either in Melbourne or state-wide. Two academics researching in this field were also interviewed.
In addition to individual interviews, three focus groups were held. The first involved four senior practitioners or service managers, each employed in a voluntary agency commissioned by the state to deliver youth services, and two academics who had worked with these services, either in undertaking evaluation research or in supporting professional development. The second focus group involved four participants of a Youth Parole Board
(for further details see Department of Human Services, 2009a): namely a judge, an administrator and two senior practitioners drawn from voluntary sector services. The third focus group involved three senior civil servants from the state Department of Justice, and six senior police officers and strategists in charge of implementing relevant initiatives and policy directives. It is this final focus group that I discuss first.
Combating excessive drinking in a 24/7 ‘party city’
The senior police officers and policy directors presented attempts to tackle anti-social behaviour as a ‘public health’ issue rather than one of law and order, emphasizing the need to engage the public both in defining the problem and in developing the collective means to address it. In particular, the need to engage the perpetrators of this behaviour in this dialogue was specifically noted, with a rationale that anti-social behaviour will only be effectively prevented if those who might engage in such behaviour agree that it is problematic and unacceptable.
The most pertinent example of this representation of anti-social behaviour as a public health concern surrounded issues of alcohol consumption and associated violence in the City’s Central Business
District. Senior police officers described the clear ‘disconnections’ within and between aspects of government policy and rhetoric. Clear disparities were perceived between various messages and campaigns regarding community safety, healthy lifestyle choices and positive behaviours, and the City of Melbourne’s Policy for the 24 Hour City (City of
Melbourne, 2008), which was seen to be encouraging public and tourist

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perceptions of ‘a 24/7 city where you can drink until 5am every night’
(Senior police officer, March 2009). In addition a recent proliferation of licensed establishments was also described, resulting in a magnified and improved ‘marketing drive’, and a more dispersed population of drinkers who were therefore more difficult to monitor.
The extended drinking hours and increased marketing drive led to associated concerns with an increase in alcohol-related anti-social behaviour. Whilst this was seen to inevitably require a greater police presence on the streets, an enforcement approach was not presented as the primary means to tackle this issue. A policing or prohibition approach was in itself thought to have a limited likely effectiveness. For example, focusing on limiting the alcohol consumption of young people in public will lead them to ‘drink at home before they come out’, whilst heavy and visible policing of the behaviour of people perceived to be drunk was thought to be potentially antagonistic and therefore inciting of the sorts of behaviour they were looking to prevent.
Instead there was a perceived need ‘to challenge this in the same way we challenge drink driving or road safety’ (Senior police officer, March
2009) by addressing a ‘generational acceptance’ that particular behaviour is acceptable. ‘The message needs to be that it’s not big and it’s not clever’ (Senior police officer, March 2009). To support this approach there was a desire for research that explores ‘who is drinking, where, when’. The greater understanding of this behaviour that this would provide was seen as a necessary precursor to trying to alter or prevent it.
This representation of the problem of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour therefore offers a counter example to the law and order discourse evident in the UK. Whilst a degree of policing and enforcement is seen as necessary to prevent or to tackle problematic drunken or violent behaviour, the perpetrators are primarily presented as ‘at risk’ because of their chosen behaviour, rather than ‘a risk’ to the community or to others. Rather than providing a dichotomy of victim and perpetrator, a shared perspective is sought, as reflected in a strategy of public information and engagement. This is in contrast to Measham and Moore’s (2008) analysis of ‘The Criminalisation of Intoxication’ within the UK, in which they describe a ‘new wave of proactive prohibition’ through measures such as alcohol disorder zones and on-thespot fines ‘for minor offences, such as urinating in public’. In the UK, the night time economy has become increasingly subject to ‘“law and order” responses from both national and local government agencies’; responses that are seen to criminalize all ‘club goers’ based on assumptions of problematic drinking (Measham and Moore, 2008: 283).

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Identifying and addressing vulnerability in young people who offend A further, very different example of how the discourse surrounding anti-social behaviour evident in Victoria is contrary to that in the
UK is apparent in approaches to supporting young people engaged in offending behaviour. Interviews and focus groups revealed consistent portrayals of the young people services are working with and the needs that they seek to address. Whilst different services and policies were presented as being differentially informed by or emphasizing neurological or sociological explanations for offending, there is seen to be what was described as a ‘unifying policy accord’ (chief executive of children’s charity) in seeing criminal or anti-social behaviour amongst young people under 21 years old as indicative of ‘developmental pathway difficulties’.
Within this developmental discourse, services and support for young people exhibiting anti-social behaviour are described within a continuum of services for young people and their families that commence immediately after birth. Interviewees frequently discussed the strong state commitment to supporting young families. This was frequently exemplified by the ‘maternal and child health services’ available to all families with children under six years of age. These services aim to provide parents with support, information and advice around issues such as ‘health, behaviour and development of your child’, ‘sleep and settling techniques’, parental health and well-being, and child safety (Department of Human Services, 2009b).
Where necessary, state support to families continues, so as to address a child’s ongoing developmental needs. The universality of maternal and child health services is replaced by a broad range of services designed to meet specific needs. Whilst the universality is lost, the ethos remains the same, with the perception that it is a statutory or public concern to ensure a child’s positive development and that services must therefore be in place to achieve this.
Those exhibiting ‘anti-social behaviour’ or at risk of offending are considered within this framework of additional support needs.
Approaches to tackling anti-social behaviour were therefore described as positioned within the state’s Blueprint for Education and Early Childhood Development: ‘the Government’s five-year agenda for learning and development from birth to adulthood’ (Department of Education and
Early Childhood Development, 2008: 10) intended to improve outcomes for children and young people. This representation is supported

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by Owen (2007), whose analysis of ‘services for young people presenting with complex care needs’ across various Victorian service systems presents anti-social behaviour as a ‘subset’ of adolescent ‘high risk and challenging behaviour’. Such behaviour includes violence (defined broadly), mental health problems, drug or alcohol use, running away, and risk of suicide. As such, concerns regarding anti-social behaviour are not framed by a concern with crime prevention but as an aspect of broader developmental processes. Again this illustrates a focus on risk to self in engaging in ‘challenging behaviour’, and not risk to others.
By positioning such support within this broader framework, service providers do not seek to separate welfare and developmental needs from crime or disorder related interventions. From this perspective, it is seen to be the same set of needs to be addressed. Whilst the reason for referral to a particular service may be related to offending behaviour, and may be as a result of a court mandated order, the approach to working with a young person does not alter. Activities were described as focusing on the promotion of pro-social behaviour and positive developmental opportunities, rather than the prevention of anti-social behaviour – a sharp contrast to the dominant contractual and prohibitive approaches in England, such as the ASBO and the dispersal order. In order to do so, services seek to establish networks for young people, including relationships with supportive adults, positive engagement in opportunities within their community, and increased aspirations and opportunities for future employment. Service providers also emphasized notions of identity, self-esteem and cultural and spiritual awareness. To this end, providers were opposed to any separation from ‘non-offending’ peers which was seen as encouraging a labelling of young people as problematic or criminal, and an associated offence or justice-based approach. In contrast, by not isolating offenders, the needs and issues that are shared with other young people become the focus, as opposed to the behaviour that marks them out as in need of support. Young people therefore access the same range of services and support as non-offenders, with service users unaware of which of their peers may have been referred due to having committed an offence.

Conclusion
The dominant discourses surrounding concerns with anti-social behaviour in England and Victoria, Australia, reveal counterposed perspectives;

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the former positioning anti-social behaviour as an issue of law and order and an extension of concerns with crime and victimization, and the latter emphasizing concerns with public health and the vulnerability of the perpetrator. These opposing perspectives inevitably give rise to markedly different approaches to working with those seen to be behaving problematically. A law and order discourse emphasizes the needs of the victim
(whether an individual or community), and therefore seeks to prevent either the onset or the continuation of any behaviour that ‘caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress’ (as stated in the Crime and
Disorder Act 1998). The perpetrator is consequently positioned as ‘a risk’ to the victim and made subject to any available sanctions deemed necessary to limit this risk. In contrast, the victim is relatively absent from a health and well-being discourse regarding anti-social behaviour. Instead the emphasis is on the (actual or potential) perpetrator and the associated needs and vulnerabilities seen to be arising out of or contributing to the anti-social behaviour. Such a focus frames the perpetrator as ‘at risk’.
In both England and Victoria, young people appear to be a central focus of legislation and intervention designed to tackle anti-social behaviour. Exploring the particular effects on young people of these contradictory discourses suggests a need to be wary of the impact of resultant approaches on those who may be susceptible to committing anti-social behaviour, or of having their behaviour labelled as such by others. Whilst this article does not seek to evaluate the impact of these different approaches, it suggests the need for caution in the application of a law and order discourse, and the potential for an alternative approach that recognizes and responds to vulnerability by promoting positive behaviour and offering opportunities for development. As noted at the outset, this is necessarily a partial picture of the policy and practice evident in either state. However, contrasting these two dominant and distinct discourses offers an opportunity for critical reflection and a questioning of assumptions, approaches and alternatives. In particular, it offers a potential impetus for a ‘post-ASBO’ politics.

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Nathan Hughes is Lecturer in Social Policy and Social Work at the University of Birmingham. His research interests include policy and practice in relation to young people and their families, particularly regarding crime and anti-social behaviour. This paper follows a three-month visit to Australia as part of a Leverhulme Study Abroad Fellowship, during which time he was a visiting researcher with the Alfred Felton Child and Family Welfare Research
Program at the University of Melbourne. Recent publications include:
Hughes, N. (2010) ‘Models and approaches in family-focused research’, Social
Policy and Society, 39(4); and Hughes, N. (2009) ‘Managerialism subverted:
Exploring the activity of the “street-level bureaucrat”’, in M. Barnes and
D. Prior (eds) Subversive Citizens (Bristol: Policy Press). Address: Institute of
Applied Social Studies, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT,
UK. email: n.j.hughes@bham.ac.uk 

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Citations: http://csp.sagepub.com/content/31/3/388.refs.html >> Version of Record - Jul 21, 2011 What is This? Downloaded from csp.sagepub.com at Open University Library on April 30, 2013 shifted from a political buzzword into common parlance and vernacular. Described as Tony Blair’s ‘crusade’ (Blair, 2004 cited by Squires, 2006), tackling anti-social behaviour became central to New Labour © The Author(s), 2011. Reprints and permissions: http://www.sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav Critical Social Policy, 0261-0183 101; Vol http://csp.sagepub.com Downloaded from csp.sagepub.com at Open University Library on April 30, 2013 A survey of six European countries (ADT Europe, 2006, cited by Crawford, 2008) suggests that this growing public concern with Political and public interest in anti-social behaviour is also apparent outside of Europe, and notably in Australia (Bor et al., 2004; Smart et al., 2004; White, 2007). There appears to be value, therefore, in comparing the rationales, discourses and approaches of different jurisdictions in attempting to address anti-social behaviour, particularly As noted by Pierson (2003: 80), ‘Britain and Australia are geographically rather distant, but this physical separation is outweighed by ties of history, culture, kinship and language’ Doling (1999) offers a useful categorization of comparative social policy research based on its emphasis on ‘context’, ‘content’ or ‘consequences’. Downloaded from csp.sagepub.com at Open University Library on April 30, 2013 389

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