Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/15/tory_anti_social_powers/

Plod offered SIM confiscation powers by Tories

Errant yoof face summary mobile justice

By Christopher Williams

Posted in Law, 15th July 2009 12:22 GMT

Young people accused of anti-social behaviour could soon see their SIM cards summarily confiscated by police for up to a month, using new powers proposed by the Tories.

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said yesterday that taking away access to mobile communications would "go right to the heart of what matters to a Nokia generation of young people". The sanction wouldn't be permanent, but "long enough to make a point", he added.

Bicycles could also be impounded under the proposals, which the Tories plan will bypass the "months of complex bureaucracy" involved in the court-backed ASBO system.

The plans would grant front line police officers discretion in deciding whether to give "occasional miscreants... the twenty first century version of a clip around the ear".

If enacted, SIM confiscations are likely to prove controversial. Many teenagers are given their mobile phone by parents as a means of keeping tabs on them. In that case, severing what may be a family's main link to errant offspring could be counterproductive.

Furthermore, depriving youths on the cusp of criminality something at the "heart of what matters" to them might inspire more serious transgressions than vandalism or drinking: No phone for a month? Just take someone else's.

But the Tories seem convinced, despite Grayling's rather technologically out-of-date assertion a confiscated SIM card would deprive a young person of "all their mobile numbers and text messages".

In his speech he said: "It's a power that exists in our schools. You can be put on detention. You can have property confiscated. But we do not offer any similar tools to those dealing with trouble outside school."

It's unclear if a SIM sequestering policy will appear in the Conservative manifesto, however. Grayling merely said yesterday he'd "like to see" police given such powers. Last week he told the Association of Chief Police Officers that front line cops should be able to ground young people. ®