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Civil rights: Home Office proposes riot curfew powers for police

In answer to the criticism over the police response to the recent riots across the UK, the Home Office has proposed that police should be given new powers of declaring 'no-go' zones in which it will be an offensive to disobey a police instruction to leave.

Police officers, of the rank of superintendent and above, will be allowed to set up curfews in areas where they believe "a serious threat of such disorder" might take place.

While individuals will not be arrested merely for being in a 'no-go' area after the curfew is in place, if a police officer instructs a person to leave the area and they refuse, they will be arrested. However, the proposal gives no indication about the penalty that could be incurred.

The Home Office stated that the curfew would be "useful in stopping people travelling into an area to cause problems, as seems to have been the case with a significant proportion of offenders involved in the recent disturbances."

The proposals, announced by Home Secretary Theresa May, also included plans to allow police officers to make protestors remove their face-masks. Currently officers must gain permission first from senior officers, which can cause "bureaucratic delays and hinder police response to mass disorder".

Civil rights groups have spoken out against the proposed powers.

Isabella Sankey, of Liberty, said: "We can be stopped, searched and dispersed within an inch of our lives and should be rather more questioning of the logic of further measures. In a riot situation isn't it better to arrest someone for actual violence than for failing to remove his mask - arrest him for looting rather than failing to leave the no-go zone in which he is looking for his teenage son after dark?"

But the Home Office claims: "It is essential the police have all appropriate powers at their disposal to maintain public order."

The Home Office consultation paper was published yesterday 13 October.

Related links:
Read more on the story (The Independent)
Read 'Civil rights and civil liberties' (FindLaw)
Find local specialist solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)