Innovative Use of Civil Injunctions Where the Criminal Standard May Not Be Met

Birmingham U.K. social services have successfully sought a civil injunction (balance of probabilities), to protect vulnerable teenagers in their care from sexual exploitation, where the evidence is unlikely to secure convictions on the criminal standard (beyond a reasonable doubt).

The injunction granted last week restrains the men named as respondents from contacting a particular 17 year old girl in the City’s care, and from associating with any female under 18 with whom they are not personally associated.

If the men breach the injunctions, the City intends to seek jail terms for contempt of court.

The proceedings do not depend on evidence from the victims, which can be difficult to obtain, particularly where the conduct of the perpetrators is “grooming” or persuading the girls, who may not realize what is happening to them.

This course of proceeding has been described as “strikingly novel”.




  1. David Collier-Brown

    It may also pose some problems for the courts, in balancing when something is a civil matter for the individual to litigate, or for someone to litigate on their part, instead of a criminal matter.

    To an outsider’s eye, this sound rather like “keeping the King’s peace”, somewhere near or perhaps off the bottom end of what we think of as criminal. I therefor wonder if the UK has peace bonds, or if this is the next best thing…

  2. Was this an ASBO (anti-social behaviour order)? There is a widespread move in many common-law jurisdictions to enact behaviour-modification measures as civil justice rules, in order to avoid problems of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and other criminal procedure standards. Consider administrative monetary penalties, civil forfeiture orders, and the like. To date the courts have tended to uphold these measures as regulatory or civil rather than disguised criminal measures.

  3. Apologies for the delay in responding to these good comments.

    It was not an order under the ASBO legislation. It was based on the common law of injunctions and the inherent jurisdiction of the court to protect minors who are at risk of harm.