The High Court has ruled that police powers to impose curfews on
under-16s breach the European Convention on Human Rights,
writes Lindsay Clark.
A 15-year-old boy from Richmond, London, challenged the powers in
the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 and won in the High Court today.
The Court found that the curfew power could not have been intended
to include the right to use force. However, the Home Office said it
would appeal against the decision.
Lord Justice Brooke said: “All of us have the right to walk
the streets without interference from police constables or
community support officers unless they possess common law or
statutory powers to stop us. There is no relevant common law power,
and section 30(6) of the 2003 Act does not create an express power
to use force.”
Under the curfew legislation, any unaccompanied child under 16 who
ventures into a curfew zone when the ban is in force – usually
after 9pm – is liable to arrest and forced escort home, whether or
not they are suspected of bad behaviour.
After the ruling, the boy, referred to as W in court, said: “Of
course I have no problem with being stopped by the police if I’ve
done something wrong. But they shouldn’t be allowed to treat me
like a criminal just because I’m under 16.”
W’s case was brought by charity Liberty. James Welch, Legal
Director at Liberty, said: “We all have a shared interest in
genuine efforts to address crime but you don’t teach respect by
acting unfairly. Today our Divisional Court has confirmed Liberty’s
view that it should never be a crime just to be a child.”
The Home Office said it would appeal against the decision. A
spokeswoman said: “This judgment does affect the police’s
ability to use their power to take children home. We believe that
the police should have reasonable force to take children home.
Otherwise the police could do nothing if a child refused to be
taken home. We will be appealing to the Court of Appeal.
“These powers provide the police with a powerful tool to tackle
intimidation and antisocial behaviour by groups of
She added that young people may have a legitimate reason to be out
at night alone and that these powers were discretionary.