Kerry has had the following letter published in today’s Evening Post, about whether there was really a need for a dispersal order in College Green.
I am writing in response to Ellie Vowles’ letter regarding the College Green dispersal order (“Soapbox: College Green dispersal order”, Open Lines, July 23). Dispersal orders have proved useful in Bristol in dealing with persistent anti-social behaviour by a minority of young people, and, as such, have been welcomed by local residents. However, I believe they should only be used as a last resort. There is a danger that a dispersal order simply becomes a displacement order, moving the problem from one area to another, unless real efforts are made to engage with the young people involved. There is also a danger that the problems can return once the dispersal order comes to an end unless the underlying causes of anti-social behaviour – which may, for example, be a lack of youth facilities in the area – are resolved. The Government is announcing new plans for more investment in youth services, which is long overdue and very welcome. In this particular case, I believe that the decision to seek a dispersal order for College Green may have been premature. Young people have always tended to congregate in public places in town and city centres, which does not in itself constitute anti- social behaviour. And I would urge the police, youth services and other local agencies to work closely with the young people who use College Green as a meeting place, to address some of the causes for concern, so that a positive outcome can be reached. I have also written to the police to ask them to use their new powers with discretion while the order is in force. Miss Vowles has contacted me directly about this issue as her local MP, and I have told her that I would be very happy to meet with her and her friends to discuss this issue further. Kerry McCarthy MP, Bristol.