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Civil Anti-Gang Injunctions Do Not Breach Human Rights

Urban gangs are an appalling blight on many people’s lives but, as a Court of Appeal decision showed, Parliament and judges are on the alert and powerful measures to bring them to heel can be taken under both the criminal and civil law.

The case concerned a 21-year-old alleged gang member’s challenge to an injunction that had been granted against him at the behest of a city council. He was, amongst other things, banned from entering sections of the city, from communicating with suspected gang members and from participating in music videos glorifying gang culture. The power to make such orders was first introduced by the Policing and Crime Act 2009, which has since been reinforced by further legislation.

In dismissing his appeal, the Court rejected arguments that, although the order was made by a civil court, the proceedings against him were essentially criminal in nature. Applying the civil standard of proof (the balance of probabilities) to his case, rather than the more stringent criminal standard (beyond reasonable doubt), did not amount to a breach of his human right to a fair hearing.

The Court noted that such orders may only be imposed for a maximum of two years, that they are subject to review and that breaching them is not a criminal offence. In also rejecting arguments that aspects of the legislative regime were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, the Court noted that Parliament was entitled to address the very real social harm which gangs and anti-social behaviour inflict upon society.

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