Teachers given right to screen pupils’ computers and mobile phones in crackdown on school gangs

Daily Mail

22.05.2008

Schools are being told today to monitor possible gang members by examining pupils’ computer accounts and taking photographs of graffiti “tags”.

New guidelines say teachers must intervene to stop pupils - including primary children - from joining gangs.

They emerged as the Government also announced sweeping new measures to combat gang violence in a bid to halt the wave of stabbings and shootings on Britain’s streets.

Teachers are being told to gather proof about gang membership from computers and evidence such as photographs, it is claimed.

The guidelines advise them to look out for tell-tale signs of gang membership such as the wearing of certain colours, jewellery or clothing – including weapon-proof clothes – or the drawing of graffiti “tags” in books and on walls, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper.

The guidelines - which supplement previous advice on searching pupils for weapons and dealing with bullying and drug-taking – also provide emergency advice on what to do if gang violence breaks out.

Children and Young People’s Minister Beverley Hughes said today that heads and teachers should work with police and local councils, but must not put themselves at risk.

She added: “As the only truly universal service for children and young people, schools are uniquely placed to spot the early signs of pupil involvement in gangs, and to work collaboratively with other agencies to tackle it.”

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: “It does appear that the issues are growing in some of our inner cities, particularly with more fluid and localised patterns of gang activity and with gang members aiming to draw in younger children.”

In wider Government moves to battle gang crime being announced today, one key change will be an instant guarantee of anonymity for witnesses who come forward to testify against gang members.

There will also be extended powers for police to use court orders to restrict the movements of gang members in specific areas.

Further reforms include a new £5 million campaign against knife crime and a bid to encourage teachers to screen pupils’ computer accounts to identify teenagers at risk of becoming involved in gangs.

The new proposals were being outlined today by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith in a speech at a summit on gang violence at the Aston Villa football ground in Birmingham. 

Gang violence has contributed to the deaths of 40 teenagers in London alone since the start of last year.

Ms Smith said: “We want witnesses to feel safe enough to give evidence right from the start.”

At the moment, witnesses are not usually offered anonymity until some time after they have come forward, leaving them vulnerable.

The number of convictions for witness intimidation has more than doubled in the past decade.

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