Page last updated at 14:24 GMT, Thursday, 30 October 2008

Anti-gang injunctions thrown out

Civil injunctions cannot be used against gangs in Birmingham, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

It upheld a judge's decision not to grant the city council such injunctions against alleged gang members.

The orders, which restricted movements and banned individuals from seeing each other, were used by the council instead of antisocial behaviour orders (Asbos).

The ruling means that the civil injunctions will not now be taken up across England and Wales.

BBC Correspondent Phil Mackie said the injunctions were used because county courts did not require the same level of proof as magistrates courts, which issue Asbos.

The three judges ruled that the council should have sought Asbos if it had sufficient evidence.

Thrown out

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who had praised Birmingham City Council's use of the injunctions, said the government may now seek to change the law.

The civil injunctions had even been used to ban alleged gang members from wearing specific clothes.

The city council had pioneered the use of the injunctions from August 2007 and obtained 30 interim orders.

But the first time a county court trial was held in January over an application for a full injunction against two alleged gang members, it was thrown out by a judge.

Communities have noticed the benefits of these civil orders, which have helped to restore order and minimise gang-related activity in specific areas
Councillor Ayoub Khan, Birmingham City Council

Judge MacDuff said there was insufficient evidence against Marnie Shafi and Tyrone Ellis.

Other cities had been studying the effectiveness of the injunctions in controlling gang activity.

Mrs Smith said she was "disappointed" by the ruling.

She added: "I will be reviewing the decision and considering how we can support this sort of action that has been so successful in countering gangs, including changing the law if necessary.

"It is important to note that injunctions are just one of a range of tools and powers available to local areas."

Birmingham City Council said it would seek to take the case to the House of Lords.

It had complained that the standard of proof applied by Judge MacDuff was too strict for a civil action.

But the appeal judges said civil applications "in aid of the criminal law" required the same level of proof as an Asbo application.

Master of the Rolls Sir Anthony Clarke said the courts had ample powers to deal with gangs without resorting to civil injunctions except in exceptional cases.

Councillor Ayoub Khan, the council's member for local services and community safety, said: "Today's judgment will limit the use of civil law to protect people from gang violence and anti-social behaviour, but we are committed to using all other means available, including Asbos, to tackle problems posed by gangs in the city."

He added: "Communities have noticed the benefits of these civil orders, which have helped to restore order and minimise gang-related activity in specific areas."

'Greater control'

Suzette Davenport, Assistant Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, said: "Although disappointed with today's ruling, West Midlands Police remain committed to working with our partner agencies to reduce gang related violence in our communities.

"We will do this through both tried and tested means, but also through the development of innovative methods to manage those involved who engage in criminal activity and anti-social behaviour.

"Injunctions and anti social behaviour orders have worked, enabling greater level of control over associations and being in specific geographic areas.

"We will continue to apply for anti-social behaviour orders to curb criminal behaviour to help keep our neighbourhoods safer."

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