Can we use reasonable force to take children home who have been involved in anti-social behaviour?

13 July 2020

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question:

There has been confusion regarding the use of force in taking children home in an Anti-Social Behaviour situation. Please can you confirm if this can be done under section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act?

Answer: 

In the case of R (on the application of W) v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and another 2006 (which applied to the former Section 30 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, which was replaced by Section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014) it was stated that:

'The power to 'remove' a person under section 30(6) does carry a power to use reasonable force if necessary. This is an express power which is coercive. The natural meaning of the word remove in the context of the Act suggests that physical force may be required if the child resists. The court considered the word 'remove' as to mean 'take away using reasonable force if necessary'. Further this power sits comfortably with the protective duties provided to the police by section 46 of the Children Act 1989.'

Our interpretation of the case is that reasonable force can be used under section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014.

Under section 35, the officer must specify the area from which the person is excluded, and may specify when and by which route they must leave the area. Where the officer believes an individual is under the age of 16, an officer can remove that individual to a place where he or she lives or to a place of safety (section 35(7)).

The statutory power to use reasonable force for this purpose would, in our view, come from section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 which states that:

'3(1) A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large.'

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