Forced dispersal ruled unlawful

The police have no right to forcefully escort a child under the
age of 16 home simply for being in a dispersal area, the High Court
has ruled.

Backing the legal challenge to the policy by 15-year-old ‘W’ from
Richmond, Lord Justice Brooke said the Antisocial Behaviour Act
2003 merely allowed the police to take a law-abiding under-16 home
with their consent.

“It therefore confers no power on the police or a community support
officer to interfere with the movements of someone under the age of
16 who is conducting himself lawfully within a dispersal area
between the hours of 9pm and 6am,” he concluded.

James Welch, legal director at human rights organisation Liberty,
which backed the challenge, said the ruling confirmed Liberty’s
view that “it should never be a crime just to be a child”.

However, Tony Arbour, the leader of Richmond Council, said the
ruling deprived the police of a valuable tool for combating
antisocial behaviour and sent out the wrong message to the
community and “potential young yobs”.

The Home Office said it believed the police should have “reasonable
force” to take children home against their will and would be
appealing against the ruling.

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