A judge has ruled that pioneering injunctions preventing gang members from entering certain parts of Birmingham are illegal.
In a decision that could set back the fight against serious crime, the Court of Appeal decided that Birmingham City Council had no right to use banning orders to restrict the activities of suspected criminals.
Birmingham became the first city in the country to use injunctions obtained in the civil courts to stop gang members from associating with other known members of their gang, from wearing gang colours and from going into the area that they consider to be their territory.
The pioneering move was even welcomed by Government ministers as a significant step in the fight against gangs and guns.
By the end of 2007, about 30 injunctions had been successfully obtained by the council, with the full backing of West Midlands Police.
But the process came to a halt in January this year when a judge at Birmingham County Court dismissed applications for banning orders against gang members Marnie Shafi and Tyrone Ellis.
The council challenged the decision, but the Court of Appeal has come down in favour of the county court judge.
Ayoub Khan, Birmingham cabinet member for local services and community safety, said: “Today’s judgment will limit the use of civil law to protect people from gang violence and anti-social behaviour, but we are committed to using all other means available, including ASBOs, to tackle problems posed by gangs in the city.
“Communities have noticed the benefits of these civil orders, which have helped to restore order and minimise gang-related activity in specific areas.”
Coun Khan (Lib Dem Aston) said the council would seek leave to appeal to the House of Lords for the right to use injunctions.
He added: “We are also seeking to engage with the Government for support in finding new solutions that will enable us to continue to make Birmingham a safer place to live.”
The council sought injunctions because they are easier to obtain than anti social behaviour orders.
While ASBOs can only be imposed once the court has been satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt, injunctions can be secured on the balance of probabilities.
West Midlands assistant chief constable Suzette Davenport said she was disappointed at the court’s decision.
She added: “Injunctions and anti social behaviour orders have worked, enabling greater level of control over associations and being in specific geographic areas. We will continue to apply for anti social behaviour orders to curb criminal behaviour to help keep our neighbourhoods safer.
“West Midlands Police remain committed to working with our partner agencies to reduce gang related violence in our communities.
“We will continue to work with communities and consider the range of options that offer communities relief from gang behaviour and give them an opportunity to regain control of their own neighbourhoods.”