Blunkett crackdown on unruly youngsters is 'illegal'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

David Blunkett was warned last night that his planned crackdown on unruly youngsters could breach their human rights.

A joint Commons and Lords committee raised serious doubts about the legality and practicality of the Home Secretary's Anti-Social Behaviour Bill, currently passing through the Commons.

It singled out for criticism plans to give police officers the power to disperse "intimidating" groups of youngsters who gather in "specified localities". The Labour-controlled committee said the measure would put police officers in a difficult position because the wording was vague.

It warned that "the potential intrusion on private life and liberty is so extensive, and the benefits in any case likely to be so speculative" that it could be impossible to enforce.

The committee said proposals to remove troublesome children from dysfunctional homes and place them with foster parents could breach the European Convention on Human Rights. It also said powers to return teenagers found wandering the streets at night risked being incompatible with the convention.

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said the report injected a note of sanity into a debate dominated by "authoritarian Labour and Tory MPs". He said the Bill as it stood could, for example, be used to disperse groups of black men, because members of the public found them intimidating.

A Home Office spokesman hinted Mr Blunkett could amend some of the proposals. He said: "We don't believe the Bill is incompatible with human rights legislation. However, we will consider carefully what the committee has to say."

The committee said it was concerned that the fostering plan was not "sufficiently robust and reliable" to benefit the children affected or reintegrate them to their families. It warned that plans to take unaccompanied children home was incompatible with their rights under the European convention to liberty and privacy and to freedom of association.

A Home Office spokesman said several of the Bill's ideas were modelled on schemes in place in other countries that had signed the convention.