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Police forces across the country battling tearaway youths won a boost today after a high court ruling. ...
Police forces across the country battling tearaway youths won a boost today after a high court ruling.

Two top judges decided that the consultation process over anti-social behaviour orders could take place at 'beat-level' - and didn't have to be carried out by senior-ranking officers.

The case was brought on behalf of the chief constable of the West Midlands Police Force, Edward Crew, in a bid to overturn a district judge's decision to nullify orders against five youths.

Aged between 14 and 16 when the proceedings were begun against them in March last year, the five were said to have been terrorising the Ladywood Estate in Birmingham.

Outside court, Lisa-Marie Smith, a representative of West Midlands Police Force solicitor, John Kilbey, said the youth's were responsible for criminal damage, robbery and anti-social behaviour.

She welcomed today's decision, which allows the West Midland's Police Force to reapply for the orders at Birmingham Magistrates Court.

'The decision made by the judge is very pleasing,' said Ms Smith. 'The home office want orders to be dealt with quickly and effectively, and a judgement like this will allow us to do that.'

Earlier Lord justice Sedley and Mr justice Poole had heard how District Judge Cadbury had thrown out applications for anti-social behaviour orders - which would have banned the youths from certain areas - against the five in October, 2001.

He ruled that, under statutory regulations, consultation about the orders - which takes place between a local authority housing officer and the police - must be conducted by at least a superintendent.

The West Midlands Police had allowed Sergeant Gary Higgins - the beat manager for the Ladywood area - to consult with the local housing officer Carol Dawson when drawing up the orders in March 2001.

Jason Beer, for the force, claimed that Judge Cadbury had 'erred in law' and it made good administration sense for someone at ground level to take part in the consultation process.

He added that a superintendent would be dealing with much more serious matters, and bringing one into the process would considerably slow matters down.

'The learned judge attached too much importance to rank rather than the desirability of having an officer with ground level knowledge consult on the applications,' said Mr Beer.

The barrister added that a commander of an operational command unit still had to be involved in the initial stages of drawing up an application.

Robin Howat, for one of the five youths, dismissed Mr Beer's arguments as a 'fallacy' and labelled them 'confusing'.

But Lord justice Sedley said he would quash the judge's decision and send the case back to Birmingham Magistrates Court for reconsideration.

He added that he would give detailed reasons for his decision at a later date.


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