Retailers have backed the continued use of anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) to fight the problem of abusive customers, even though new figures show that more than 40% of those issued have been breached.

At the same time they have welcomed new measures launched by the government to protect and support witnesses when they give evidence in anti-social behaviour cases.

The measures, which include screens in court, video links from outside the court and intermediaries when communicating with the police, were announced as figures issued by the government showed that over 50% of ASBOs issued had not been breached.

The figures also showed that a total of 4,649 ASBOs had been taken out on individuals from April 1999 to December 2004, with 786 issued in the final quarter of 2004, up 116% on the same period in 2003.

Home Office Minister Hazel Blears said: “ASBOs make a real difference to people’s lives by helping to rebuild confidence in communities and by bringing the actions of a selfish minority to task. The most important thing if people breach ASBOs is that they are returned to court and action is taken against them. However, we realise that it can be difficult for victims and witnesses to come forward to report anti-social behaviour. This is why we also have introduced these new measures.”

The Southern Co-operative has successfully taken out several ASBOs to combat anti-social behaviour in its stores.

Southern Co-operative loss prevention manager Gareth Lewis commented: “We have found ASBOs to be a useful tool in banning unwanted troublemakers from our stores and in the process making work safer for our staff and customers. These new measures will hopefully encourage staff to come forward to give evidence against the thugs.”