Position statement: The use of Mosquito devices in Scotland

24 July 2017

The Commissioner has published a position statement that calls for Mosquito devices in Scotland to be banned.

The statement comes following reports that Hamilton Central station has installed a Mosquito device, which is designed to "repel" children and young people from an area by emitting a sound only they are able to hear. The use of these devices infringes a number of children and young people's rights.

About the position statement

The Commissioner's statement:

  • sets out a rights context for a ban on Mosquito devices,
  • explores key reasons why he supports a ban, and
  • looks at the legislative grounds under which a ban could be considered in Scotland.

Read the position statement.

Calls for a ban

Mosquito devices have been condemned internationally. Both the UN and the Council of Europe have called for them to be banned. In its 2016 Concluding Observations, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child renewed its call on the UK to "Prohibit the use in public spaces of acoustic devices used to disperse gatherings of young people (so-called 'Mosquito devices')".

There are a number of rights set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that are at stake. Children must be protected from all forms of discrimination or punishment (Article 2.2), they have the right to freedom of peaceful assembly (Article 15) and the Scottish Government is required to “take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse” (Article 19.1).

In 2010, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called on Scotland and other countries to ban the sale and promotion of these devices.

The use of acoustic devices to disperse children and young people is a disproportionate interference with their rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which protects the right to respect for private life, including the right to respect for physical integrity.

The use of these devices may also – depending on circumstances – interfere with Article 11 of ECHR, which guarantees the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The degrading nature of the use of acoustic pain, meanwhile, may be a breach of their rights under Article 3 of ECHR to be free from degrading treatment.

The Commissioner's office has previously called for the devices to be banned: in 2015, the office of the Commissioner lent support to a petition to this effect at the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee.

The Scottish Government and local authorities must take proactive steps to protect the rights of children, by ensuring that these devices are banned.