Liverpool police have turned a measure for curbing louts into a weapon against organised crime
A GANGSTER accused of terrorising Liverpool?s clubland has been barred from the city centre for ten years in a move by Merseyside Police to use antisocial behaviour orders to fight organised crime. David Hibbs-Turner, 27, has been a substantial figure among the city?s underworld crime bosses, feared and loathed for his violent thuggery. He and his gang, known as the Turner Crew, represented a constant provocation to peace on the night-time streets as they moved into the city?s thriving clubs and bars using guns, knives and CS spray to back up their threats.
They turned one club, the Velvet Lounge, into their headquarters, serving alcohol to under-age drinkers and, in the words of one senior police officer, making it their personal shebeen.
In the past it has proved impossible for police to mount a criminal prosecution against Hibbs-Turner because witnesses have been reluctant to give evidence for fear of reprisals. It took officers four months to persuade unwilling witnesses even to offer anonymous statements.
Merseyside Police turned to antisocial behaviour orders as a useful tool not just in the battle against drunks and bad neighbours, but in the front line against the ?untouchables?, those serious criminals who believe themselves to be beyond the reach of the courts. One source described the strategy as a way of ?legally harassing? known criminals as they try to build a case against them to take to court.
Last week a judge issued an extraordinary ASBO that bars Hibbs-Turner from setting foot in the city centre for ten years. Under the order he cannot visit his old haunts between the hours of 6pm and 6am before 2016.
Chief Inspector Jon Roy, in charge of policing the city centre, said: ?We could not gather evidence because of the fear and the level of intimidation that he and his associates engendered. So we decided to use the ASBO and actually target this individual, as the head of the group.
?We needed to solve the problem but we found traditional routes were not available to us. It is the first time we have used an ASBO order against someone who is considered to be a more serious threat to safety.?
Magistrates were told that Hibbs-Turner and his gang were responsible for a catalogue of crimes and intimidation. Knives were brandished in the city centre, drug-taking was openly sanctioned and doormen were threatened by the Turner Crew, who were regarded as a threat to the safety of people trying to enjoy a night out at the weekend.
Magistrates were told that firearms were discharged on the street. On one occasion last September a clubber left the Velvet Lounge and was shot and injured. Magistrates were told that in an incident last December door staff at the Blue Bar, in Albert Dock, were attacked by the gang. One was jabbed with an 8in knife and another threatened with a handgun.
In the three months since Hibbs-Turner was issued with an interim order, thuggery in the city centre has decreased by 21 per cent, police say.
Hibbs-Turner and his gang have been causing mayhem for several years. In March last year they took up residence in the Velvet Lounge. Their presence led to a pattern of violent incidents; guns and knives were brandished and cocaine snorted openly. A shooting was linked to the club.
The gang then tried to export their brand of thuggery to other clubs to such an extent that some bars and clubs closed on Sunday nights to avoid confrontations with Hibbs-Turner and his associates. The gang has been known to use CS spray on doormen who stand in their way.
They wanted, one officer said, to ?establish themselves as the dominant group on the club scene?.
Hibbs-Turner was shot in the groin and leg during a disturbance outside the Salisbury pub in Anfield, Liverpool. He discharged himself from hospital and refused to co-operate with police. He is wanted for four outstanding offences and did not attend last week?s hearing. He is said by local sources to be in hiding in Amsterdam after clashing with a gangland figure.
Mr Roy said: ?It is the first time we have used ASBOs in this way and with such success.
?It sets a precedent that nobody is untouchable and that should serve as a stark warning to others who may consider themselves above the law.?