ScotRail ban on rights-breaching devices

Date: 27th November 2017
Category: Civil Rights and Freedoms

ScotRail has banned the use of controversial 'anti-loitering' devices (known as mosquito devices) at train stations across the network, after they were condemned by the Children's Commissioner.

ScotRail's announcement comes after the installation of a device at Hamilton Central Station was condemned by both the Commissioner and Amy Lee Fraioli MSYP, chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament. The Commissioner has also been clear that the devices should be outlawed throughout Scotland.

Another device was also installed at Helensburgh Central station, while a third device is in place at Aberdeen.

Mosquito devices are designed to "repel" children and young people from an area by emitting an unpleasant, high-frequency sound that most adults are unable to hear.

The use of these devices infringes a number of children and young people's rights, as the Commissioner has made clear in his position statement on the issue. In October, he urged the Scottish Government to take action to outlaw the devices.

Bruce Adamson, Children's Commissioner said: "The use of such devices is a breach of children's rights to go about their lives free from discrimination in a healthy and safe way when they use public transport, visit shops or meet their friends.

"These devices are a disproportionate and degrading approach that acts without discrimination, causing discomfort to any children and young people who encounter them."

Scotland's national rail operator said it had undertaken a "thorough review" of the use of mosquito devices after concerns were raised earlier this year. The review found that mosquito devices were rarely used and did not help to reduce anti-social behaviour without other support.

Announcing the move, David Lister, director of safety and sustainability at ScotRail, said: "The safety and security of our staff and customers remains our priority, and we continue to work with all agencies - including the British Transport Police, Police Scotland, trade unions, and local authorities - to tackle any anti-social behaviour at our stations.

"These devices were always only a small part of a much wider effort to tackle anti-social behaviour wherever it occurred. A small number of customers raised concerns."

In 2010 a report by the Council of Europe said the devices should be made illegal under human rights laws, but the UK Government declined to act, saying it was for individual councils to decide.

Together has monitored the use of mosquito devices in its State of Children's Rights reports for many years, repeatedly calling for a ban on the use of the devices. In 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a recommendation to the UK to "prohibit the use in public spaces of acoustic devices used to disperse gatherings of young people (so-called 'mosquito devices')"