Controversial gang injunction powers for under-18s have been used just once since being introduced 10 months ago, it has emerged.
Juvenile gang injunctions can be imposed on 14- to 17-year-olds. Image: Arlen Connelly
Gang injunctions have been available for use with 14- to 17-year-olds since January this year as part of a series of measures announced last November by Home Secretary Theresa May to deal with the fallout of last summer’s riots.
If successfully applied for in court, they can prevent those suspected of being related to gang culture from entering certain areas, or from wearing "gang colours".
But despite the government saying they would be “a valuable tool” in tackling gangs, the Youth Justice Board (YJB) has said the measure has only been used on one occasion.
In a message to youth offending teams, the organisation said that “to the YJB’s knowledge”, only one under-18 gang injunction has been granted.
Injunctions for under-18s are opposed by a number of campaign groups on civil liberty grounds, while the Magistrates’ Association has voiced concerns over the fact that the hearings take place in a civil court, meaning cases are overseen by judges who may not be trained to deal with children.
Penelope Gibbs, chair of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, which represents organisations including Barnardo’s and the NSPCC, said: “To the extent that we feel that gang activity is better dealt with by the criminal justice system, it is a good thing that there have not been more gang injunctions.
“We in no way want more violent crime as a result of gang activity, but we are unhappy about many aspects of the gang injunction legislation.
“It is a civil order and we feel that means children are being dealt with using a process that is not going to give them the support they need to turn their lives around.”
A Home Office spokesman said gang injunctions are "just one of the powers available to tackle gang violence".
"Local authorities should use the approach they think best to find long term solutions to the problems in their communities," he added.
“Our gangs and youth violence strategy aims to find permanent solutions to youth violence. We are intervening earlier to prevent the next generation of gang members, helping those who want to change their ways and punishing offenders.”