Thursday, June 02, 2005

Liberty challenges Richmond child curfew

THE CIVIL rights pressure group Liberty is supporting the case of an unnamed 15-year-old boy who is challenging a Metropolitan Police curfew imposed on all children under 16 in two areas of Richmond-upon-Thames.
The boy, who lives in one of the areas, claims the curfews make it impossible for him to attend band practice, take the dog for a walk or run errands for his mother.
The Met has designated the areas as “child dispersal areas”, where any unaccompanied child under 16 who ventures into the areas after 9pm is liable to be arrested and escorted home, whether or not they have misbehaved.
The areas cover parks, bus stops, cinemas, railway stations and other public places.
The court was told that more than 400 dispersal areas have been set up in England and Wales under the 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act, giving police sweeping powers to disperse troublemakers and force them to go home.
The boy told the court, in a written statement: “I resent being taken home because I feel I am old enough to be independent. I’m worried about being picked up and taken home by police when I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m also worried that if I am taken home by police other people will see me and think I have done something wrong.”
Javan Herberg, the lawyer representing the boy, said the effect was to create curfew zones which violated the human rights of innocent young people and were an abuse of common law.
Liberty’s legal officer, Alex Gask, said: “There is a real danger of sweeping ‘anti-yob powers’ demonising an entire generation of mostly decent kids.”
Meanwhile probation officers warn that anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) are increasingly being used against prostitutes as a “quick fix” way of clearing them off the streets.
They say that the Asbos have effectively reintroduced jail sentences for offences such as loitering and soliciting – which have not been imprisonable offences for more than a decade. Breaching an Asbo can lead to a five-year sentence.

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