Ok, so before we start, it’s important to clarify what a gang injunction is. The BBC have gone on the offensive in the past 24 hours and published several stories on gang injunctions drawing comparisons with the ASBO and trying to urge various practitioners and those with experience in working with gangs into contentious debates. The gang injunction is a tactic which focusses solely on the violence aspect of individuals involved in gangs, that is according to the legislation behind the injunction :
"Violence or a threat of violence which occurs in the course of, or is otherwise related to, the activities of a group that:
a) consists of at least 3 people
b) uses a name, emblem or colour or has any other characteristic that enables its members to be identified by others as a group; and
c) is associated with a particular area."
If that individual has a history of violence, or alternatively is at-risk from violence, they can be subject to an injunction. The fact that the injunction focusses on a specific individual rather than a group of individuals means that the impact is unlikely to have any effect on the gang as a collective.
Judging by the sheer volume of ASBO breaches (which is reportedly as high as 66%) it would be fair to assume gang injunctions will also be breached at a similarly high rate. And whilst there is the threat of prison sentences it is unlikely to deter violent gang members who already arm themselves with weapons and run a day to day risk of conviction and imprisonment.
If you cannot deter a violent gang offender from carrying a gun (which is supposed to have a mandatory 5-year sentence), how can you expect a “Gangbo”, as they have been dubbed, to curb offending?
The injunctions are aimed at adults (18+) – realistically, without offering something that provides viable income for the individual there is no real incentive to change.
The injunctions could also be negative in terms of safety to an individual. For example, say a gang member is banned from associating with the rest of his collective and banished from particular areas they could become more vulnerable to attack from their rivals – would the injunctions support the possibility of re-housing to overcome such an issue?
We may have been better off learning from our neighbours across the pond. In America the police employ Civil Gang Injunctions (CGI). The benefit of the CGI is that it does not de-criminalise or fast-track young people associated to gangs into the criminal justice system. They do not aim to “pick-on” specific individuals by labelling them as “gang members” which for a young person could have a severe detrimental impact on their future life opportunities and prospects, particularly if well publicised, as is most likely going to be the case with gang injunctions.
The first one to be granted will certainly be a top story in the UK putting the unfortunate souls face on the receiving end of much negative press and earning them a reputation that will inevitably be almost impossible to shake off.
Unlike the UK Gang Injunction, a CGI is a suppression tactic that is focussed on a geographical area where gang members congregate and conduct most of their activity (this is not to be confused with a dispersal order despite some similarities in how it works).
Although individuals of the gang are subject to the rules of the civil injunction they are not necessarily publicly listed and identified therefore it is acting in the best interest of the community and the problem individuals. It addresses the group as a group.
For the most part this is helpful because gang offending by definition has to involve a group, and as we already stated removing one individual from the equation will not suppress an entire gang or its activity. If anything it will create a vacancy to be filled by the next up and coming Younger.
Follow up – “5 Reasons why gang injunctions will not work” – see below article