Page last updated at 17:51 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009

Ban on gang membership will apply to 14-year-olds

Youngsters in hoodies
The new law could be extended to younger gang members

Children as young as 14 could be banned from wearing "gang colours" or having violent dogs, under government plans.

Powers to impose restrictions on gang members aged over 18 became law last week but new proposals would see them extended to 14-17 year olds.

The Home Office said they would be used only on proven violent gang members and would make communities feel safer.

But campaign group Liberty said it was a "gimmick" and warned it could become "divisive along racial lines".

Civil injunctions which stop adult gang members from meeting each other, wearing certain colours, going to certain areas or owning aggressive dogs were brought in under the Policing and Crime Act, which became law last week.

Anger management

But Home Office officials said new proposals in the Crime and Security Bill, published on Friday, would see them extended to younger gang members.

They predicted "tens" not hundreds of children would be affected.

Those who breach injunctions may be required to report to police, wear a tag or obey a curfew - or go on an anger management course. Ultimately repeated breaches could lead to a custodial sentence in a young offenders' institution.

They will sweep up the innocent more than the guilty and could quickly become divisive along racial lines
Anita Coles
Liberty

But Anita Coles, from Liberty, said the law had been passed on the understanding it would not be used on children.

"The ink isn't dry and the policy isn't tested but ministers want to spin this power further," she said.

"'Gangbos' are yet another gimmick for punishing people without a fair trial. They will sweep up the innocent more than the guilty and could quickly become divisive along racial lines."

Meanwhile housing minister John Healey has said thousands of "frontline staff" and "community champions" in 130 local authorities will be trained to use powers to tackle anti-social behaviour.

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said Labour had had 12 years to tackle crime but in many areas things had got worse.

He said: "What Britain needs is not another new law from this government, but a new government to bring a fresh approach to tackling crime and anti-social behaviour."



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