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Background Info

The ‘Mosquito’ is a device that makes an unpleasant high-pitched noise that only those under 25 can hear. It’s designed to stop groups of young people gathering outside shops and public places.

The use of ‘Mosquitos’, predominantly by shopkeepers, is discriminatory, counter-effective, has health effects and causes severe discomfort, especially to those with autism who find the noise emitted incredibly distressing. It is a form of collective punishment of all young people, which serves only to shift any problems and at the same time alienate young people. Instead, positive solutions, where shopkeepers, the police and young people all work together, should be used to solve loitering problems.

Many of you will have come across them, and those who have will know about it. The mosquito device is an electronic alarm which emits a high frequency sound at a loud noise. So high in fact that it can only be heard by those aged around 25 and under. It is increasingly been used across Britain as a weapon to stop young people gathering, particularly outside shops where the shopkeepers fear that groups of youngsters leave people too intimidated to go into their shop.

Andrew says “I think we can all accept that some people would be scared of a group of teenagers, particularly if they sported the stereotypical hoodies. But what about the mother who walks to the shop with her young children? It is often overlooked that her children, being under 25, will be exposed to this annoying and sometimes painful noise. And the worst part about this situation is that very young children will not even be able to explain to their parents why they are so distressed, and if their parents are too old to hear the mosquito device going off they’ll be none the wiser. And what of the autistic youngster who finds the noise particularly distressing and uncomfortable? They will suffer because of this alarm, even when they have done absolutely nothing wrong.

“But more than that, what about any young person who has done nothing wrong but will still face the discomfort of the mosquito at the shopkeeper’s will? The truth is that these devices and the people who own and deploy them brand all young people as criminals, as pests who don’t deserve to be treated as individuals but instead belong to a group which immediately makes them guilty of some offence. If I haven’t done anything wrong I should not accept that I will have to face this noise because there is a group of youngsters gathering. While it isn’t the shopkeeper’s fault they are there, it’s not my fault either. It’s not the young children’s fault, or the students buying their weekly supply of Super Noodles. What the mosquito device represents is collective punishment, the punishment of all young people for the actions of a small minority.

“And the device is not just annoying; at times it is physical punishment too. People have reported headaches, nausea, tinnitus or even temporary deafness after being exposed to it. Some even argue that it borders on assault, or using a form of violence to solve the problem. It is a travesty that in this day and age something like this exists and is legal.

“If there was a device invented which served the same purpose but could only be heard by black people or women there would be uproar. “It’s racist!” or “it’s sexist!” people would say. So why, when that same device is used against under 25’s, does the government turn a blind eye?”

There is little clarity as to where responsibility for regulation of these devices lies.  It is our understanding that local government sees this as a national issue and national government as a local one.  As a first step in our campaign, we therefore call on the Scottish Government to provide clarity as to the regulatory responsibility for these devices.

At a UK level, in response to the “Buzz Off” campaign, the UK Government issued a statement in 2008 that they had no plans to ban the device, but it should only be used as a “last resort” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7241527.stm). In February 2010 the Home Secretary expanded on this in the House of Commons.

“There is evidence that shows that such devices can be helpful in the circumstances…where people feel that a congregation of rowdy young people is adversely affecting their quality of life. Where other systems to talk to those young people have not worked, those devices can assist the situation. Of course, there are health and safety aspects and the devices have to be used carefully, but I am afraid I am committed to using any device-or rather, devices that do not involve cruel and unusual punishments, but which bring about the improvement in behaviour that we all seek.” (www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2010-02-08b.618.0&s=natascha+engel#g620.2)

The manufacturers of the mosquito device have suppliers in five EU countries [www.compoundsecurity.co.uk/Europe] as well as in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Israel, New Zealand, Japan and Australia (www.compoundsecurity.co.uk/global). In several of those countries similar concerns have been raised about the use of the device (www.theepochtimes.com/n2/canada/mosquito-high-frequency-repellent-2280.html)

Following testing from the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, concerns were raised that the device was not completely safe, with specific reference to small children and infants who cannot leave the area, and the potential effects on young people’s equilibrium, with potential side-effects including dizziness, headaches and nausea. (Translation of original in German www.baua.de/nn_5858/de/Presse/Pressemitteilungen/2007/12/pm079-07.html)

In June 2010, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe unanimously recommended that all acoustic devices which discriminate against young people, with particular reference to the mosquito, calling it “highly offensive” and raised concerns that it could breach young people’s human rights. (http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/NewsManager/EMB_NewsManagerView.asp?ID=5761)

In June 2008, Belgium’s Parliament strongly recommended that the Federal Government impose a ban on the use and marketing of the mosquito. (http://assembly.coe.int/Mainf.asp?link=/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc10/EDOC12186.htm – see point 14)

In a test case in France, where the device is known as a ‘Beethoven’, a court in Saint-Brieuc ruled use of the device illegal within its jurisdiction and ordered compensation be paid. (Translation of original in French - www.lefigaro.fr/actualites/2008/04/30/01001-20080430ARTFIG00369-la-justice-interdit-le-boitier-anti-jeunes.php)

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