Lawyers for a 15-year-old boy have made a challenge in court to the Prime Minister's policy for tackling Britain's yob culture.
If the government loses, ministers may have to rethink child curfew zones, which have been criticised for the arbitrary targeting of innocent young people.
The boy, "W", attends church in Richmond, south-west London, and has never been in trouble. He claims he is being criminalised for being under 16 and unfortunate enough to live in an area designated as a no-go zone for youths. Any unaccompanied child under 16 in such an area after 9pm is liable to arrest and being forcibly escorted home. The police do not have to suspect them of antisocial behaviour.
Javan Herberg, appearing for "W", told the High Court yesterday that the effect was to create curfew zones that violate the human rights of "wholly innocent" young people and was an abuse of the common law. The judges heard that W was a "model student" and wanted the right to go to the cinema or football matches without the fear of losing his freedom and being detained.
W, who was not in court, said in a statement before the hearing: "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."
The boy is seeking a ruling that the curfew violates his right to liberty under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as Article 8 (respect for private life), Article 11 (right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association with others), and Article 14 (right not to be discriminated against because of his child status).
* A teenager has been banned from wearing a hooded top for five years. Dale Carroll, 16, from Manchester, threw fireworks at cyclists, threatened another with an axe and attempted to cut down a CCTV lamppost, the city's magistrates heard.