TWO pairs of ASBO teenagers are the ‘ringleaders’ of gang causing trouble around a centre aimed at keeping wayward youths on the straight and narrow, police said.

The so-called ‘Witches of Whitebirk’ Tori Duxbury and Amanda Holt and brothers Paul and David Stafford were given ASBOs in separate cases after terrorising their communities.

But now police say they are leading a group causing trouble around the Accrington Road Community Centre in Blackburn.

The teens are banned from being in public together, but this does not apply to the centre where they are taking a programme aimed at turning their lives around.

Meanwhile it emerged that the youths had been sent on a number of diversionary activities, including trips the the cinema and bowling alley, playing in football matches and even going on a canal boat at Eanam Wharf with snacks provided.

Some critics have condemned the trips saying that youths were being ‘rewarded’, but the council said overall the project reduced re-offending.

The centre has also been labelled a ‘recipe for trouble’ with young troublemakers gathering on a weekly basis.

Police said they had been repeatedly called to the centre.

And they said Paul, 18, and David, 16, and the self-proclaimed ‘Whitebirk Bitches’ had become the ringleaders of a group involved in stone-throwing, intimidation and nuisance.

Neighbourhood Sergeant Mark Cruise said: “You only need one rotten apple and when they are all gathered together the problem quadruples.

“That is the purpose of the recent ASBOs: to take it out at the top.

“I wouldn’t say the scheme is backfiring, but these activities for young people mean nobody is excluded.

"That means it becomes a place for young people to congregate, similar to off-licences and shops.

“It only takes Tori, Amanda, Paul and David Stafford coming together for things to escalate.”

Duxbury, 15, and Holt, 16, were given ASBOs earlier this month after a court was told they had ‘terrorised’ the Whitebirk area of Blackburn.

The Stafford brothers are banned from the Shadsworth community centre under the terms of their orders imposed last April.

Sgt Cruise defended the ‘diversionary activities’ which he said gave disadvantaged children opportunities they would not otherwise get.

The borough council has recently taking over the running of the ‘Youth Intervention Programme’ from the Blackburn Rovers Community Trust.

It has worked with 50 youngsters to encourage attendance, healthy lifestyles, reduce crime and encourage citizenship.

Bosses said it had brought a ‘significant reduction’ in young offending.

David Fleming, manager of Blackburn with Darwen Council's youth offending team, said: “Diversionary activities are offered to young people who are at risk of, or already engaged in anti-social behaviour in order to channel them into positive, rewarding and educational pursuits.

“This includes engaging with young people to find positive activities which interest them in an effort to put them on the right track to prevent them offending, causing harm to their communities and damaging their opportunities of gaining employment."

Saleem Kapadi, 45, who lives opposite the community centre in Accrington Road, said: "There's always youths hanging around outside at night.

"It makes us feel a bit unsafe and worry that our windows might be put in."

Another resident, who asked not to be named, added: "We have seen plenty of youths hanging around it at night.

"We feel a bit awkward going out a night. It is intimidating."

Another resident said: “Having all these like-minded children in one place is a recipe for trouble.

“In these days of austerity is spending such amounts of money taking them out on barges really the answer?

“Anti-social behaviour victim Robert Bristow was left too scared to switch on his own lights after feeling intimidated by Duxbury and Holt, who locals named the Whitebirk Witches.

He said: “I don’t think they should receive anything at all.

"They've made my life a misery. Why should they be rewarded?

“They don’t care what they’re doing and I think they should be kept at home, off the streets and certainly not offered these type of trips.”