Teenager's Asbo for internet behaviour

A Norfolk teenager has been given a radical new cyber-Asbo - one of the first of its kind in the country - after promoting his tearaway lifestyle on the internet.

A Norfolk teenager has been given a radical new cyber-Asbo - one of the first of its kind in the country - after promoting his tearaway lifestyle on the internet.

The boy regularly posted offensive and inflammatory comments about the police on web-based social networking sites, which in some cases feature photographs glorifying criminal activities such as drug taking.

But the 17-year-old's conceit proved to be part of his downfall after police monitoring the sites used his comments to convince a judge to ban him from publishing material which is “threatening or abusive” or “promotes criminal activity” on the net - thought to one of the first times an anti-social behaviour order has been used in such a way.

And officers revealed that they would consider applying for similar orders in the future if the growing phenomenon of using the internet to promote or celebrate anti-social behaviour continues.

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PC Tim Chapman said: “This individual was caught using good old fashioned police work but the comments on the Bebo website demonstrated his attitude towards offending, the community and the police. We were able to use that in a court room and his defence was unable to present his client as an upstanding member of the community because of it.

We would consider doing the same thing again.”

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The youth, who cannot be named for legal reasons, reappeared at Norwich Youth Court last week after admitting taking a motor vehicle without the owners consent failing to surrender to custody, possession of cannabis and breach of a conditional discharge.

PC Chapman added: “We got a DNA hit from the car he took, we searched his house and found the cannabis and on a targeted patrol we picked him up for the breach but the use of the internet was pivotal in this case.”

Norfolk police have been monitoring sites such as Bebo, Myspace and Facebook for the past six months to gather intelligence about community problems, particularly in the Hellesdon and Horsford areas.

“The sites are public and people are naively posting material promoting criminal acts. We will be following up all the intelligence we get,” added PC Chapman, who worked in computers before joining the force.

“We will continue to monitor information put up on a regular basis and take action if this young man is found posting. A lot of people think because it is on the internet we are not interested or can't act on it but that is not the case.”

As a result of a series of arrests, instances of criminal damage in the Hellesdon and Horsford areas have dropped by 31pc in the three months between August 24 and November 14, compared with the same time last year.

“The offenders are now working with the youth offending team. It is about re-educating and re-directing them to turn them into useful adults,” added PC Chapman.

The teenager, who has become a persistent offender in the last year, is one of a number of people police have been monitoring.

Along with the two-year Asbo, which also bans him from entering the Hellesdon, the youth was ordered by District Judge Philip Browning to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work, put on a two month curfew and has to wear an electronic tag for two months.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on the specifics of this case, but it is always pleasing to see local agencies taking action to help victims of anti-social behaviour. This highlights the common aim we all share of tackling not tolerating anti-social behaviour.

“There is only type of Asbo - an injunction to protect victims from someone else's unacceptable behaviour. Asbos prevent a wide variety of anti-social behaviours - what counts is that they are protecting the community from harm.”

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