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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 January, 2004, 15:05 GMT
Police union leader 'out of touch'
Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell said officers backed the executive's plans
First Minister Jack McConnell has rounded on a police union leader who criticised plans to crack down on anti-social behaviour.

The Scottish Executive's bill would give officers additional powers to disperse groups of youths.

But Doug Keil of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) told MSPs on Tuesday that new powers were not needed.

Mr McConnell hit back on Wednesday, saying: "Never was a union leader so out of touch with his members."

Speaking at a media conference in Edinburgh, he said the SPF had opposed the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill from the start.

"Police constables that we have met as ministers individually and collectively in our various trips around the country over recent months confirmed their desire for more powers for action on anti-social behaviour," said Mr McConnell.

I've tried to read the provisions in this bill inside out and upside down and I have yet to think of a situation where the powers would be of any benefit
Doug Keil
Scottish Police Federation
"I hope the Police Federation will reflect their views in due course."

The first minister also insisted that the executive had watered down its proposals in light of the concerns expressed by police organisations.

Mr Keil, the general secretary of the SPF, made his criticisms of the bill during evidence to a Scottish Parliament justice committee.

He said: "Every police officer that I've spoken to has said there's more than enough powers, the problem is they don't have enough time or resources.

"I've tried to read the provisions in this bill inside out and upside down and I have yet to think of a situation where the powers would be of any benefit."

Chief Constable David Strang of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos) also raised concerns during evidence to the committee.

Potential for conflict

He said: "It's just not a practical solution to the problem and I think there is potential for conflict and alienation.

"Our purpose in dealing with young people is to engage productively, but this provides potential for conflict."

The Anti-Social Behaviour Bill also contains proposals to extend tagging to under-16s and introduce parenting orders which could lead to the jailing of parents if they fail to take responsibility for their children's behaviour.

The bill aims to crack down on a range of anti-social behaviour
The plans came in for further criticism from children's groups on Wednesday during a meeting of Holyrood's communities committee.

Barnardo's Scotland representative Tam Baillie said: "There's a mismatch between a very broad definition of anti-social behaviour and the very small group of people at whom this bill is targeted."

Joe Connolly, assistant director of children's services at NCH Scotland, said there were civil liberties implications.

"It's a sledgehammer to crack a nut because there are powers to deal with this," he said.

Christine MacKechnie, a member of the Glasgow Children's Panel, warned that many youngsters would see an electronic tag as "a badge of honour" rather than a deterrent.

Marion Pagani, chairwoman of the Glasgow Children's Panel, added: "I think the bill is a knee-jerk reaction because over the last 10 years there have been a lack of resources in the system and the work has not been done."

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30 Oct 03  |  Scotland

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