SONIC devices that violate EU torture laws and are used to disperse gangs of loitering youths have been banned from Scotland's train network.

ScotRail confirmed it has barred the use of the 'mosquito' – the anti-loitering device installed at stations including Hamilton Central, Helensburgh Central and Aberdeen stations.

The device produces a high-frequency sound normally audible to under-25s in a bid to stop them congregating.

It comes after ScotRail launched a “thorough review” into the use of the devices which campaigners said breached the human rights of young people.

Children's champion Bruce Adamson, who has been one of the most outspoken critics of the devices, said use of the mosquito in public places was "disproportionate, degrading and a breach of human rights".


Mr Adamson, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, added: “The Scottish Youth Parliament campaigned strongly on this topic and I am pleased that ScotRail has heard their voices and made the right decision. However, the next step is for these devices to be banned completely.

“This announcement comes just before we celebrate Universal Children’s Day on Monday, which is an international day to mark awareness of children’s rights and support for the welfare of children and young people. The Scottish Government must act to protect their rights by prohibiting the use of ultrasonic devices in all settings once and for all.”

In response to anti-social behaviour at Hamilton Central and Helensburgh Central, mosquito anti-loitering devices were installed as just one of a wide range of measures to ensure the safety and security of staff and customers. Other action to tackle anti-social behaviour included security guards at stations, an increased British Transport Police presence at stations and on trains, and more Police Scotland patrols in the local areas.

A third device is in place at Aberdeen station. This device was installed before the beginning of the current franchise, and hasn’t been used since before 2015.

Mosquitos do not cause any permanent damage to a person’s hearing but the United Nations and other international human rights bodies have been raising concern about the issue for several years.

In 2010, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called on Scotland and other countries to ban the devices, saying it violates legislation prohibiting torture.

Scotrail has said that following a review it was decided that because of the “low usage of the devices, and the lack of evidence to show the positive impact of the devices in isolation”, they should be removed.


David Lister, ScotRail Alliance director of safety and sustainability, said: “The safety and security of our staff and customers remains our priority, and we continue to work with all agencies – including the British Transport Police, Police Scotland, trade unions, and local authorities – to tackle any anti-social behaviour at our stations.

“These devices were always only a small part of a much wider effort to tackle anti-social behaviour wherever it occurred.

“A small number of customers raised concerns about the use of these devices. We always listen very carefully to customer feedback.”

Christina McKelvie, the SNP MSP for or Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse added: “While tackling anti-social behaviour is important, there are more proportionate responses than unfairly targeting one section of society. I hope to meet with Hamilton Central to discuss these in the future.”

ScotRail said previously said that it had used the anti-loitering systems in the past and that the device was only activated when anti-social behaviour was taking place.

The mosquito had been installed through discussions with local politicians and Police Scotland.


The move Hamilton train station came after staff ha lodged appeals to be moved to quieter platforms in other parts of Scotland with one RMT union official saying not enough had been done to combat the "headbangers and nutters" that congregated there over two years.