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Using mosquito devices on children could constitute assault, says ombudsman

THE Ombudsman for Children is concerned about "mosquito devices" that are being used by business premises to disperse children — and which could constitute an assault.

Spokeswoman Emily Logan said she had received a report on the devices from Youth Work Ireland and was studying its findings to see what action, if any, she might seek.

That report claims the devices are actually assaulting children and is a crime under the Non-fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997.

The mosquito device exploits the fact that human hearing deteriorates with age — the device releases a piercing sound only people under the age of 25 can hear.

The small box-like devices are fitted at first-floor height and look like a blacked-out sensor light. They project the sound in the direction they are pointed at and the noise is confined to a couple of metres either side of the box.

Hundreds of the devices have been sold to shopping centres, corner shops and takeaways around the country as they try to stop young people congregating outside their businesses.

In March, Letterkenny became the first town council to install the technology in a public place.

"We have had legal advice on it and it is an assault under the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997 if the noise is deliberately and intentionally targeted at a person as opposed to a general noise," said Michael McLoughlin of Youth Work Ireland.

He said people using the devices should be aware that there could be legal implications, though he admitted it would not be straightforward for a civil case to be taken.