The gang leader who had his 'too harsh' Asbo reduced

Last updated at 10:17 29 December 2006


A teenage gang member has had his five-year Asbo overturned by a judge because it was too harsh — to the horror of the council which imposed it.

Sonny Lockwood, 19, had been banned from New Addington in Croydon for five years because

of his long history of harassing and intimidating residents.

He was also prohibited from driving and riding in stolen cars and from mixing with six fellow

gang members under the terms of the anti-social behaviour order imposed in May.

But a judge has now angered councillors by watering down its conditions.

The Asbo will only apply for two years and the outright ban on Lockwood entering New Addington will be lifted to allow him to visit his parents.

The judge’s ruling raises questions about the ability of Asbos to tackle the most persistent

troublemakers.

A recent report by the National Audit Office warned that although the majority of Asbos did cut anti-social behaviour, they were regularly

flouted by a hard core of offenders for whom they were sometimes seen as a badge of honour.

Croydon council, which said Lockwood was a "prolific offender" and hailed his original

Asbo as a landmark achievement that would give law-abiding residents the chance to "live in peace and free from fear", said it was deeply disappointed with the judge’s ruling.

Lockwood’s behaviour was so bad that officials produced a leaflet featuring a photograph of

the teenager and advising people to dial 999 if they saw him breaching the terms of his Asbo.

Steve O’Connell, the council’s cabinet member for crime reduction, said: "Lockwood and his gang were making life hell for a significant number of people in the area. We wanted to send a strong signal that we are not going to tolerate this

behaviour, so it’s very disappointing to get this sort of ruling.

"The court did uphold the Asbo itself and some pretty tough conditions remain but as far as residents are concerned it is bad news that it has been changed at all.

"I believe everyone deserves a second chance but someone who has repeatedly chosen to ignore

all attempts at mediation should answer for their behaviour. It’s very frustrating indeed."

Lockwood was first issued with an Asbo at the age of 15. He is currently in jail and the new

Asbo will come into effect when he is released next year. His successful appeal against the order

was heard at Croydon Crown Court this month.

Kate Skerrit, the lawyer for the council and police, told the hearing: "The people of New

Addington are terrified by a gang and he is very much a member of it."

A number of incidents were described to the court, including the discovery of Lockwood in a

house in Addington Village Road in which there was also a large quantity of stolen property.

The hearing was also told that anonymous tip-offs had led to him being suspected of involvement

in a serious fire in New Addington on 23 January.

Judge Stephen Waller decided, however, to reduce the length of the Asbo and to allow him to

visit his parents in New Addington, using a prescribed route.

"We think he should have the chance of support and comfort of his family in the home when

he is released," he said.

Nearly 10,000 Asbos, including 1,172 in London, have been issued since they were introduced

in 1999.

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