Children's groups warn of law breaching rights

A coalition of 13 children's charities has warned that the Government's anti-social behaviour bill could breach UK and European legislation if it becomes law.

The coalition said in a joint statement: "We fear that the bill will alienate children and young people from their communities and reinforce negative stereotypes. Preventative approaches which foster respect and equality and lead to the creation of safe and strong communities are more effective in dealing with antisocial behaviour."

Barnardo's, the Children's Rights Alliance for England, the Children's Society, Family Service Units, Nacro, NAYJ, National Children's Bureau, NCH, National Council of Voluntary Child Care Organisations, NSPCC, the National Youth Agency, Save the Children UK and YMCA are calling on the Government to make urgent changes to the bill.

An independent legal report commissioned by the coalition and a report released last month by the Joint Committee on Human Rights both reveal that the bill contains significant potential breaches of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Children's Act 1989.

The bill, which was debated by the House of Lords last week, includes a clause removing reporting restrictions on court cases involving children who are subject to an anti-social behaviour order. The clause could breach section one of the Children's Act, which requires the best interests of the child to be considered.

A separate clause allows police to return children under 16 to the family home if they are found without an adult after 9pm, even if they have not done anything wrong. This may impact on the rights to liberty, respect for private and family life, freedom of expression and freedom of association, as laid out in the Human Rights Act.

"This is nothing short of a nationwide curfew on young people under 16," said Anthony Jenning QC, who analysed the bill on behalf of the charities.

"This is the imposition of government morality on 15-year-olds who have done nothing more wrong than be on the street on a warm summer's night in the school holidays."

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