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

Letter to the Chair from Alan Campbell MP, dated 31 December 2009

Thank you for your letter of 8th December about the human rights implications of the use of mosquito devices in tackling anti-social behaviour by young people.

Firstly, I would like to say that the Home Office does not promote the use of the 'mosquito' device. I would also like to be clear that we would be absolutely opposed to the use of any measures which interfered with children enjoying the company of their friends in public places or jeopardised their safety.

Our position on anti-social behaviour is that it should be tackled, not tolerated. We encourage local agencies to consider the full range of innovations and schemes and practices intended to reduce crime, the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour. It is for local agencies to decide on the most appropriate interventions based on their knowledge of what works best locally. With that in mind, the Home Office has advised practitioners that the use of any device which claims to disperse groups of young people without a proven track record of success should be treated with caution and if used should form part of an overall strategy to tackle the drivers of that anti-social behaviour.

It is for Crime and Disorder Partnerships to decide whether these devices should be used to tackle ant-social behaviour problems. These partnerships also have a responsibility to communicate with people in local communities, including young people, to take account of their views and involve them when implementing these solution.

The Health and Safety Executive has considered the literature available on the mosquito device in order to determine whether there is any risk to health, either to hearing or other effects, which might be relevant under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The Health and Safety Executive concluded that the literature available on very high frequency/ultrasound units of this type did not identify any significant and relevant health effects that may harm children/youths exposed to vhf/ultrasound in the long term.

The Health and Safety Executive also considered that in terms of noise exposure in the context of the Control of Noise as Work Regulations 2005, and therefore possible implications for persons working in proximity to these units, at the stated output level (for the mosquito unit) of an A-weighted sound pressure level of 76 Db, for the likely duration of the exposure, there was not likely to be any risk of an exposed person suffering hearing damage.

They concluded that based on the information and evidence available and whilst there is the possibility of some short-term subjective effects if the duration of exposure is prolonged, there would appear to be little likelihood of persons exposed to vhf/ultrasound from this device suffering long term ill health.

There are no regulations that govern the use of ultra-sonic devices and currently, we have no plans to ban the use of the 'mosquito' device. However, prolonged exposure to the noise emitted by a device may be a statutory nuisance. If an environment health officer took the view that it affected the occupants of a property, action could be taken against the owner of the noise emitter. Powers under Section 62 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 which controls the use of loudspeakers for any purpose between the hours of 9pm and 8am could also be used.

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