'Mosquitoes' cause quite a buzz

Retailers defend ultrasonic youth deterrent as others debate its morals

Retailers have defended the use of Mosquitoes - the devices emitting high-pitched noise that only young people can hear - to deter anti social behaviour outside their stores.

The devices are now installed outside 3,500 premises and have been given the all-clear by independent reports, according to the manufacturer.

The Children's Commissioner, Al Aynsley-Green, argues that the devices are a breach of human rights. Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti added: "What type of society uses a low-level sonic weapon on its children?"

Bargain Booze is said to be the biggest customer in the off-licence trade. Joint managing director Matthew Hughes said: "We have about 50 units in the group. They are used to disperse youths hanging around the shops on an as-and-when-needed basis. They're not switched on all the time, only when there is a congregation of youths within the environs of the shop who may be intimidating legitimate clientele or attempting to get adults to purchase alcohol on their behalf.

"They have proven reasonably effective in some areas, but other retailers report them to have limited impact."

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: "Unfortunately in many locations around the country retailers are victims of anti social gangs of youths that congregate around their premises. These youths deter customers, intimidate staff and can commit vandalism and violence . Where a retailer is faced with this problem we fully support the use of a Mosquito device sparingly and as a measure of last resort."

Paul Richards, of producer Compound Security Systems, said: "There's been so much support for the Mosquito and not just from the private sector. Even the Home Offfice has said it has no intention of banning it and a lot of police forces say it does a good job.

"We don't supply to the end user in the vast majority of cases. Seventy per cent of sales go through police and local authorities."