“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.

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  • neil

    That’s a laugh. I live near the junction of the Suffolk Road and Glen Road in Belfast, party central every Friday and Saturday night, literally hundreds of youths drinking, raking stolen cars about, taking drugs and assaulting people. All within a half mile of a police station.

    I’ve watched the police doing nothing. I’ve seen them drive by, shouting abuse at drunken teens. It’s fantastic to watch the police literally wind up these kids, then disappear off back to the station leaving the public to face the consequences. I know of plenty of people from younger teenagers, right up to pensioners who’ve been assaulted there, most of them wouldn’t even consider calling the cops. They know there’s no point.

    So the idea that cops, who currently have the power to arrest these youths, are going to get further powers to arrest these youths, will actually get off their fat arses and do anything. No, what will happen is they will continue to ignore low level crime, because it’s easy. They can just sit on their fat holes in their landrovers raking up the overtime, why would they take a risk like getting out and trying to help the law abiding majority?

  • Newton Emerson

    The real measure of this nonsense is the claim by Goggins that parents could be held legally liable for damage caused by their children.

    There is absolutely zero chance of this ever being enacted – and even if it did, there would be zero chance of a court enforcing it and a 100 per cent certainty of a judicial review striking it down regardless.

    How could one individual be legally held liable, let alone suffer judicial punishment, for the actions of another? It would breach the Human Rights Act for a start (Article 7: “No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed”.)
    It also has to be remembered that most anti-social behaviour is not “criminal”, and where it is, it could be dealt with by existing legislation.

    Consider this: You are legally liable for the behaviour of your dog, but not your cat, because dogs are considered “property” while cats are considered “free spirits”. Is Goggins suggesting that children be legally classified as the “property” of their parents?

    The tripe New Labour comes out with about crime and anti-social behaviour would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious, and disturbing.

  • This is almost identical wording to the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 Part 4 Dispersal of groups etc which has been inflicted on England & Wales. Not just sworn Police Constables, but also Police Community Support Officers can “disperse” groups.

    Incredibly, as few as 2 people are deemed to be “a group”. What about individual pregnant women ?

    This legislation has not produced any noticeable decrease in anti-social behaviour.

    The initial relatively small areas, have got bigger and bigger over the years e.g. what used to be the Dispersal Zone covering a few blocks of central Soho, in London, now covers almost all of the Borough of Westminster and most of the Borough of Camden.

    For children under the age of 16 (or, in fact, anyone who just appears to be under the age of 16), this is effectively a night curfew power, which was successfully challenged in a test case in 2005 supported by Liberty.

    e.g. The Guardian report: Curfew zones are found to be illegal

  • Meanwhile in the real world, I say “Good one, Kevin”.

    Reported crime down 18.1%; police cover down, er, 60%. Of course, if the public think it’s a bit of a waste of time to go to the police … But let’s not blame the police for the cut in resources; let’s point the finger at the London and Dublin governments who are jointly operating ‘political’ policing – and who ‘facilitate’ those paramilitary-led community groups.

  • If you want a good overview of what crime is like in your local ward by various types of offences for the past seven year, have a look at the NI Crime Map on the Belfast Telegraph web site http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/nicrimemap/

    Below the map are the aggregated figures for each crime type with a trend line showing it in context from previous years.

    Disclosure: My company Banjax http://banjax.com built it. And we plan to do more like it. We’ll even take suggestions for new public service web sites if you want to make them (as long as we feel we learn something new along the way)! Enjoy!

  • Darryl, it needs to be pointed out that those figures are for reported crime.

  • Nevin, yes quite right.

    As I understand it, the figures are supplied by PSNI to Statistics & Research Agency and then find their way on to the Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service (NINIS) web site.

  • Darryl, the policy of coercing police officers to participate in community projects organised by paramilitary hoodlums IMO is likely to drive down the reporting of crime.

    Many folks have suspected that reportage was leaked to paramilitaries in the past and these projects will do nothing to diminish public concern.

  • Dec

    Darryl, the policy of coercing police officers to participate in community projects organised by paramilitary hoodlums IMO is likely to drive down the reporting of crime.

    Reactionary tripe.

  • Yvette Doll

    “The real measure of this nonsense is the claim by Goggins that parents could be held legally liable for damage caused by their children.”

    Jacqui Smith is as bad, a year after she promised to get the pedophile web-sites off Myspace, and police webmails, they are all still up.

    They are just still up, including convicted etc. I think, the Blairite, thing of a neat soundbite, as a substitute for govt. is in the bone marrow, and that is scary.

    I think the NASUWT’s policy of self-imposed suspensions on teachers relative to the not so well behaved youth issue, is the way to go,

    why can’t Goggin’s go on strike until kids behave themselves?

    ‘The tripe New Labour comes out with about crime and anti-social behaviour would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious, and disturbing.’

    It is remarkable, I am constantly dumbfounded as to the complte ignorance of govt. ministers on some of the issues they spew forth on, they often franchise it out to an \expert’ NSPCC, NASUWT, Street report,

    And when you ask why ‘Steer is gender neutral’ they say that os good, except CEDAW and UNCRC and ECHR is not gender neutral.

    For example, if I was NIA person in charge of frisk searches, would you accept gender neutral? I’d be hand-bagged into medical treatment.

    Gender neutral is a nu-labor concept which is clearly stark raving mad. What they lose sight of, is ‘the problem’ they are trying to fix.

  • Gregory Carlin

    “Many folks have suspected that reportage was leaked to paramilitaries in the past and these projects will do nothing to diminish public concern.”

    That’s true in England as well, it is quite common for undesirables to get police briefings across Britain. Business men are often told about difficult campaigners.

    We are still in an era when pimps or at least brothel magnates play golf with top cops. That still happens.

    That is my experience, in 2002, for England and Wales as a whole, everything added together, only 12 brothels went to court, most strategic actions related to our campaigns.

    I was seen as a general nuisance. I tried to get WP-UK to toghten up, and I was treated as a pariah. I pointed out that many private colleges were crime fronts, the same deal

    I was told directly that unless I behaved on the UKIS front, I would never be accepted, as per NSPCC, Barnardos etc. have you noticed the NSPCC types never expose anything?

    We have political policing. A police agency in Britain, annoyed at Lifesite magazine, asked the Scottish police and PSNI to give me a hard time, the PSNI declined.

    The Scottish police are happy to stop and search as if I was the only thing they have to do.

    What do I do, am I in Al Qaeda? No, I just point out abuses of work permits, educational visas, and links between the cops and the odd pimp and maybe pitch in a dozen PQs per annum.

    When I close down a brothel, the pimp often knows exactly how it got closed down.

    Gregory