Page last updated at 06:00 GMT, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Anti-gang banning orders planned

By Dominic Casciani
Home affairs reporter, BBC News

Gang of youths
The government says police need special powers for gangs

Young people who join gangs could face banning orders to control their movements and prevent gun and knife crime, the BBC has learned.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith wants anti- gang injunctions, following a legal battle over a similar move last year.

Birmingham City Council sought to help the police with civil injunctions - but judges ruled them illegal.

The plan emerges as a think tank report says ministers could do more to combat gun and knife violence.

In 2007, Birmingham City Council sought injunctions against alleged members of the self-styled "Birmingham's Most Wanted" gang, in an attempt to curtail violence in the city.

We were able to prevent certain individuals from going in to particular areas or from wearing certain items of clothing which linked them to particular gangs
Ayoub Khan, Birmingham City councillor

Two men, Marnie Shafi and Tyrone Ellis, were banned from meeting gang members or entering parts of the city. They were told they could no longer wear the colour green, used to distinguish the group from rivals.

The council sought the injunctions in the civil courts because it had proved too difficult to gather hard evidence pinning anti-social or criminal behaviour to gang membership.

The case against the men was based on police intelligence, rather than the higher standard of proof required for an Anti-social Behaviour Order (Asbo) or conviction by a jury.

But the Court of Appeal overruled the city, saying the council had misused its powers. Judges said the council should have sought Asbos based on proper proof of wrongdoing.

A Home Office spokesman said then home secretary had "long supported local injunctions" and would soon introduce legislation giving police and councils powers to seek them against gang members.

The BBC understands the proposals will be included in the forthcoming policing bill.

Dedicated police

The legislation is expected to allow councils to seek banning orders on a lower standard of evidence than required for Anti-social Behaviour Orders.

Ayoub Khan, of Birmingham City Council, said it had pioneered civil injunctions because officials could not gather evidence to a criminal standard of proof needed for an Asbo.

"Through these injunctions, we were able to prevent certain individuals from going in to particular areas or from wearing certain items of clothing which linked them to particular gangs," said Mr Khan.

"We were able to reduce that and restore some order and reduce gang-related activity in Birmingham."

The announcement comes as Policy Exchange, a think tank, said the UK should learn from successful moves to combat gang-related activity in the US, Canada and the Netherlands.

The right-of-centre body said parts of some cities had become virtual "no-go" zones because of gang crime - and that the UK was lacking the joined-up approach seen abroad.

But Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alf Hitchcock, the Association of Chief Police Officer's lead on knife crime, said that the key policies from abroad cited by the think tank had now been introduced in the UK's Tackling Knives Action Plan.

He said that knife amnesties had not shown to be ineffective by themselves. But the current wider knives strategy, which included focusing on the background of young offenders, was doing some good.

"There is a perception, by some people, that things are getting worse and that is not wholly born out by the statistics," said DAC Hitchcock.

"But that's clearly people's perceptions - and that feeling is as important in terms of public confidence and community confidence, as the reality of the numbers."

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