“Public confidence in the criminal justice system is increasing..”

Northern Ireland Criminal Justice Minister, Paul Goggins, MP, has published a draft five-year strategy [pdf file] for community safety for public consultation. Official statement here.One of the proposals in the draft strategy is for “dispersal zones”. From the pdf file

Dispersal zones

These would allow a senior police officer (of the rank of Superintendent or above) who has reasonable grounds to believe that the public has been intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed by the presence or behaviour of groups of 2 or more people in public areas in a locality; and that anti-social behaviour is a significant and persistent problem in that area, after consultation with the council (and perhaps NIHE where the anti-social behaviour is affecting one of their estates), to designate the area as a dispersal zone for a maximum period of 6 months. The designation of a dispersal zone must be publicised in the local area.

Once a zone is designated a constable can disperse groups of 2 or more persons within that zone where he has reasonable grounds that their presence or behaviour has resulted or is likely to result in the public being intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed. The constable can also require those not from the area to leave the area and prohibit their return within 24 hours. Between 9pm and 6am the constable may also take a child under the age of 16 home or to another safe place.

Failure to follow the constable’s directions would be a criminal offence.

Consultation ends on 19 January 2009.