Children's Rights: Government Response to the Committee's Twenty-fifth Report of Session 2008-09 - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Letter from the Chair of the Committee to Alan Campbell MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office, dated 8 December 2009

"Mosquito devices"

The Joint Committee on Human Rights is considering the human rights implications of the sale and use of special devices which are being marketed as a deterrent against anti-social behaviour by young people ("mosquito devices").

Children's rights have been a consistent focus of our work. Our first Report in our programme of scrutinising the UK's implementation of the main international human rights treaties was on the UNCRC in 2003[2] and on the Bill which became the Children Act 2004[3]We have also published Reports on the case for a Children's Rights Commissioner for England in 2003[4]. Since then, we have frequently reported on children's issues in the context of our routine scrutiny of Government Bills, including five Bills in the current session[5]. In our most recent Report on Children's Rights we raised many different types of discrimination against children, including the unfair treatment of children and young people in public spaces, particularly in shops, public transport and where "mosquito" devices are in use to disperse crowds[6]. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has recently highlighted the general intolerance and negative public attitudes towards children which can often be the underlying cause of further infringement of their rights, in particular the right to freedom of movement and peaceful assembly[7]. Related to this, it recommended that the Government should reconsider the use of mosquito devices[8].

The UK is a signatory of the UNCRC which imposes a positive duty on the state to guarantee the basic rights under this Convention, including the right to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development; rights to healthcare, freedom of expression, and play, as well as the right to life to be protected from abuse. The JCHR is concerned that the deployment of mosquito devices, which only affect children and are indiscriminate in the children they affect, is in potential violation of internationally agreed human rights standards and requests clarification of the Government's position on their use.

We are aware the John Austin MP has previously been in correspondence with you on this issue and we have seen your response to him dated 20 October 2009. We also note your Written Answer to Mr Austin's Parliamentary Question of 15 October 2009, in which you stated that the Home Office does not have any plans to take further action on this matter.

We should be grateful if you could provide a memorandum setting out the Government's position on the sale, use, human rights and health implications of the deployment of mosquito devices. In particular:

·  Does the Government accept that mosquito devices have a disproportionate effect on children and young people?

·  If so, what is the justification for any discriminatory impact?

·  Do you consider that the use of mosquito devices is a proportionate response to anti-social behaviour? If so, please explain how, including you explanation of how the use of an indiscriminate device can be proportionate.

·  What discussions, if any, has the Home Office had with other Government Departments and/or the police regarding the use of mosquito devices?

·  Does the Home Office propose to review their use at any point?

·  Can you provide us with a copy of the advice that you have given to practitioners as well as a copy of the Health and Safety Executive's assessment of the health risk posed by the use of mosquito devices?

I am copying this letter to the Secretary of State for Health, given that we have asked about health implications.

2   Tenth Report of Session 2002-03, The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, HL Paper 117, HC 81. Back

3   Nineteenth Report of Session 2003-04, Children Bill, HL Paper 161, HC 537. Back

4   Ninth Report of Session 2002-03, The Case for a Children's Commissioner for England, HL Paper 96, HC 666. Back

5   See e.g., Ninth Report of Session 2008-09, Legislative Scrutiny: Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill, HL Paper 62, HC 375 at paras 1.8-1.16; Tenth Report of Session 2008-09, Legislative Scrutiny: Policing and Crime Bill, HL Paper 68, HC 395 at paras 1.62-1.66; Fourteenth Report of Session 2008-09, Legislative Scrutiny: Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill, HL Paper 78, HC 414 at paras 2.1-2.51; Fifteenth Report of Session 2007-08, Legislative Scrutiny: Children and Young Persons Bill, HL Paper 81, HC 440 at paras 1.1-1.50. Back

6   Twenty-fifth Report of Session 2008-09, Children's Rights, HL Paper 157, HC 318, p 17. Back

7   Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by State Parties under Article 44 of the Convention, Concluding Observations, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 3 October 2008, CRC/C/GBR/CO/4., para 24.  Back

8   Ibid. Back

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