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JUDGE ADMITS INTERIM ASBOs 'URGENTLY REQUIRED' TO REGULATE ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

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A teenager, banned from Leeds' troubled Little London estate as part of a police crack-down on drug dealing and str...
A teenager, banned from Leeds' troubled Little London estate as part of a police crack-down on drug dealing and street crime, was today vindicated by a High Court judge.

Luke Kenny was one of 66 youths handed interim anti-social behaviour orders at Leeds Magistrates Court in September after police mounted 'Operation Cape'.

But Mr Justice Owen today overturned the ASBO, saying police accusations that Luke was part of the drugs scene in Little London was 'simply not borne out by the evidence'.

The case against him was 'tenuous in the extreme' and the judge agreed with the teenager's counsel, Mr Ian Wise, that it was a case of 'guilt by association on the flimsiest of evidence'.

The judge ordered Leeds City Council - who had fought in court to uphold the ASBO against Luke - to pay his heavy legal costs bills.

But Mr Justice Owen dismissed a similar challenge brought by another youth - 17-year-old 'M' who cannot be identified.

He dismissed claims that the procedure followed at the magistrates court - ASBOs were granted against 66 defendants in their absence on September 2 - amounted to a violation of their human rights.

Mr Justice Owen said that, in July, West Yorkshire Police mounted Operation Cape in response the 'thriving street trade' in heroin and crack cocaine in the Little London area.

He added: 'The area was very difficult to police effectively given its geographical layout which enabled dealers to place lookouts to warn of the approach of the police, and the numerous side streets affording escape routes for suspects.'

Drug addicts flooded into the area, bringing with them a wave of violent crime, and residents complained of widespread lawlessness, and the detritus of drug abuse, in particular discarded syringes.

The area had deteriorated with tenants moving out and potential new tenants refusing council offers of homes there.

Police mounted a unique and large-scale operat ion to collect evidence against those linked to the drugs trade, culminating in the successful application to the magistrates court for ASBOs against 66 individuals.

Amongst other things, the orders banned them from the Little London area where many of them lived.

Lawyers argued that, as breach of an ASBO carries criminal consequences, the 66 all had a right to an oral hearing before they were made against them.

But, dismissing that argument, Mr Justice Owen accepted arguments from the Lord Chancellor's Department that there is 'nothing inherently unlawful' in ASBOs being issued 'without notice' and in the defendant's absence.

He said he was satisfied that the making of interim ASBOs was 'urgently required to provide some regulation of anti-social behaviour' and that it was 'necessary' for the applications to be made without notice.

Rejecting 'M''s challenge, the judge said he had been linked to 13 incidents which were 'directly witnessed and provably by statements'. There was also hearsay evidence of 20 more incidents which were said to connect him with others involved in anti-social behaviour.

But, in Luke's case, the judge said there was simply not enough evidence to support police assertions that he 'associates on a regular basis with known drug dealers and street robbers.'

A police officer's 'general assertion' that Luke was connected with anti-social behaviour was 'simply not borne out by the evidence that specifically related to him,' concluded Mr Justice Owen.

The city council was ordered to pay Luke legal costs, and 'M''s legal team was refused permission to appeal against the judge's ruling. Both Luke and 'M' were legally aided.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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