A European committee is calling for a community-wide ban on the Mosquito device which gets rid of teenagers by emitting an irritating buzzing noise that older people cannot hear, even though the device has the backing of Home Secretary Alan Johnson.
The Culture, Science and Education committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has voted unanimously to ban the boxes. Over 5,000 units have been sold, 85 per cent of which are in use in the UK.
But PACE, which takes its members from national parliaments, reckons the "youth dispersal" devices treat young people "as if they were unwanted birds or pests" and that targeting them "is tantamount to degrading treatment prohibited by the European Convention on Human Rights".
The committee said that although there was no evidence of medical harm, more tests were needed, especially on the possible impact on unborn children. Therefore it recommended the precautionary principle should apply.
The proposal will be debated by the Assembly in June.
Alan Johnson backed the use of the devices in the House of Commons in February.
The speakers emit a tone at 17KHz which will get rid of loiterers under the age of 25. Or you can flick a switch and get rid of everyone.
Plymouth City Council claims to have saved £54,000 in vandalism repairs since installing the £600 boxes.
Interestingly the company behind the Mosquito - Compound Security Services - is not opposed to regulation; in fact it has spent the last two years trying to get the Home Office to act.
The company wants to restrict sales to police forces and local councils - which already account for 90 per cent of UK sales. Other users would need specific permission from the police or local authority and would have to follow strict usage guidelines.
Simon Morris, commercial director at Compound Security, said a European-wide ban was unlikely. "It is a shame that these people put so much effort into trying to ban the device, which will not happen, when instead they could work with us to restrict the use of the device to police and local authorities," he said. The company has also set up an e-petition on the Downing Street site here.
The device has had a chequered history - from first use there have been several previous calls for a ban. Kids rather brilliantly reverse-engineered the noise to use as a mobile ringtone which cannot be heard by teachers and other elderly foes.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "We encourage local agencies to consider a range of ways to reduce crime, the fear of crime and or anti-social behaviour. It is for local agencies to decide on the most appropriate interventions based on their knowledge of what works best locally and we do not promote or recommend any particular commercial product or venture."®