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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 10:46 GMT
Yob culture: Are curfews the answer?

The Criminal Justice and Police Bill - which has just been given its second reading in the House of Commons - includes a raft of provisions aimed at what has been called "yob culture".

One of its most controversial measures is an extension of curfew schemes from children under the age of 10 years up to the age of 15.

In a survey for BBC News Online 51% of people said they supported curfews, but Civil Rights group Liberty says children have a right to be on the streets.

What do you think? Is yob culture really a problem? Are curfews the solution? If not, what is?

This Talking Point is now closed. A selection of your e-mails are posted below.

Society in the UK has a bigger part to play

Charles Porter, USA (Ex-UK)
This certainly works in many parts of the US, including downtown Orlando, where the problems are nowhere near as bad as in the UK. Society in the UK has a bigger part to play. Most of these young troublemakers are high on alcohol or drugs. The UK needs a drinking age of 21 and this needs to be strictly enforced, along with an open container law. With regard to drugs, there should also be a no tolerance policy. If you are in possession of illegal drugs you suffer a hard sentence, regardless of the quantity or type of drug. When this is in place, then work on sorting out the social problems.
Charles Porter, USA (Ex-UK)

Just how exactly are these curfews going to be imposed? Has anyone thought of that? I'm sure the police have better things to do than making sure that under 16's are all tucked up in bed at night.
James, London, UK

I was born in Govan, Scotland and have only recently moved to live in Canada. The children here are far better behaved than those in the UK. This is because there are far more activities for them to be involved in, such as sporting facilities, which are provided by the local community and local authorities.
Brain D. Graham, Canada

Why do we have this attitude that it's okay to treat children as some sort of sub-human species?

Simon Watkins, Wales, UK
Why do we have this attitude that it's okay to treat children as some sort of sub-human species? How far do you think plans would get, if we were talking about adults here rather than children? If some jumped-up Home Secretary, playing to the gallery, had tried to prevent me from lawfully going about my business when I was a teenager, it certainly wouldn't have encouraged me to follow the straight and narrow - quite the opposite. "Do as I say" not "Do as I do" is hardly going to help.
Simon Watkins, Wales, UK

The media, in particularly television, has to be held mainly responsible for the increasing amount of 'yob culture'. Programme makers will say they are only reflecting the general times with the increased amount of violence and bad language on television programmes, but aren't they responsible for creating a downward spiral?
Ian, UK

Children may have the right to be on the street. However the population as a whole has a right to be safe. In this case the rights of the majority should override the rights of the minority.
Caron, England

These kids are probably persistent offenders, so why not tag them so that they can't leave the house after a certain hour. That way there is no need for a curfew, and the kids who are well adjusted and acceptable members of society don't have to suffer.
Tore, UK

Sounds very Orwellian to me?

Jean-Marc Watson, Newbury, UK
Sounds very Orwellian to me? Ultimately, our "free" society would become a little less "free" once more. Where will it end once the precedent has been set for curbing people's civil and human rights?
Jean-Marc Watson, Newbury, UK

Surely offering overtime to school prefects whilst starting a recruitment campaign for additional after school child monitoring would be better than expecting an already stretched police force be made to act on behalf of the nanny state.
Douglas Murray, UK

Since most serious crimes are actually committed by adults why not extend the curfew to everyone. It would also remove the need for police to ascertain the age of curfew breakers.
Mark, UK

Kids are getting out of hand because their lives at home are a mess

Mark, Austria
Kids are getting out of hand because their lives at home are a mess. Stop them going on the streets and they'll go somewhere else. This is another of these "zero tolerance" 19th century measures copied from Uncle Sam. They don't work. Fight the root cause and improve the social fabric. Give kids (and parents)better, more interesting education and constructive things to do in their spare time.
Mark, Austria

To be honest, the sort of teenager that this curfew is targeted at isn't going to take a blind bit of notice of it. This would just end up with already annoyed kids having criminal records. Surely this cannot be good for society.
Robin, Exeter, UK

When I was young I would have fitted in to the "yob" category. In the few years that I was in this classification, lots of stupid pretentious drunken acts of stupidity were performed. Out of the many, the police were involved in just one (involving vandalism), and we didn't even receive a caution... more of a slap-on-the-wrist. I should have been locked up for the night. I wouldn't have been so eager to do that again.
Ben, Paris, France (English)

I think that it is unfair to make such a radical enforcement on teenagers under 16. In my town of Chichester for example the number of things for under 16s to do is limited A questionnaire was sent around for youngsters to fill in with their views on what they wanted a derelict site in Chichester to be turned into, in an attempt to get them off the streets and lower vandalism in the area. But due to the older members of the community yet again a stop was put on this idea, as they feared that it would encourage more youngsters into the town.
Kathryn Bailey, England

The real problem is that kids have so little to interest them at home - that's why they are out on the streets

Rupert Eve, England
How will it be possible to police this? Every currently law-abiding 16 year old will now feel compelled to be outside during curfew hours - just for the fun of it. What will the police do when they have 20,000 youngsters, who have committed no crime, in custody? This is a silly knee jerk reaction. The real problem is that kids have so little to interest them at home - that's why they are out on the streets.
Rupert Eve, England

This bossy curfew attacks the symptoms of the problem, not the cause. Our ineffectual politicians are clearly more interested in statistics that will help their careers than in measures that will truly help the nation.
Peter Smith, UK

Parents should be held legally responsible for their children's actions up to the age of 18 years. If children vandalised, committed offences, or caused any other mayhem then it is the parents who should be taken to court. This system works very well in Germany where I used to live and results in less yobbish behaviour in the streets and much less vandalism and criminal damage.
chrisW, UK

I agree with Dan Macallair. My own relatively recent memories of being a teenager tally: usually, there just aren't enough out-of-school activities for teenagers. They can't go to pubs and nightclubs legally. In today's car-obsessed world, they can't get anywhere, unless their overworked parents drive them around. More money is needed to fund "youth clubs", to provide a very diverse mix of activities: sport, music, art/craft, board games. That is the problem that needs to be tackled - the root causes of delinquency, not the effects.
James Griffin, UK

Curfews are definitely NOT the answer. I suggest that if local councils and businesses diverted some more money toward activities for young people aged 10-18 then we would see a sharp decline in yobbish behaviour. In my opinion curfews fail to attack the root cause of this antisocial behaviour which is boredom.
Nick, UK

There are plenty of other community alternatives

David, UK
Rubbish, it is a fact that there are plenty of other community alternatives, but these organisations do not condone the smoking of drugs, drinking of alcohol, and underage sex. This doesn't make them particularly appealing to the yobs of today. The yobs will say that they don't have the money for clubs and activities. Of course they find no trouble getting the money for drugs and alcohol.
David, UK

Punishment for the few has to be a better way than oppression of the many

Richard Tyacke, England
Are we so ready and willing to turn our supposedly free and democratic country into another police state? Though many people may believe curfews are the answer how can it be possible for an undermanned and under-funded police force to enforce them. Are the government going to declare martial law and call the army in to crush the yob culture? I hope not for I would not wish to live in such a country.

I do not have a solution for the current problems but surely the first step is to inflict stronger penalties on those that do break the law. The only way to stamp out such crime is to discourage it, if the time fits the crime then maybe it will have some chance of getting through the thick skulls of those that think this behaviour is acceptable. Punishment for the few has to be a better way than oppression of the many!
Richard Tyacke, England

I do not think "curfews" are the whole answer but they will certainly help. It will only be those that misbehave. There must be some form of deterrent for the authorities to fall back on! Whilst I do share the view that alcohol is one of the reasons for the increase in "yob" culture, another just as big an influence, is the lack of respect for authority.

It starts in the family, lack of discipline from a father figure. It then moves onto school where teachers are scared to administer discipline for fear of either reprisals or charges of harassment or intimidation. Then there is the influence of TV, where programmes depict "youngsters" at odds with authoritative persons or organisations (Police) and succeeding. No respect for authority, inadequate and difficult to implement disciplinary measures and the thorough lack of moral standards all help to contribute to the "yob" culture of today. How far do we allow society to deteriorate, before positive action is taken and we can once again feel safe in our homes and on the streets of our towns and cities? Alas, I fear, not in my lifetime!
Paul PS, UK

Hang on, this isn't fair to all the youths that do act accordingly. Does this mean they can't walk home from soccer practice if it finishes late? Why not fine the parents of youths who offend and tag the youth concerned to make sure they don't break the curfew. Don't punish the majority to control the few.
Alex Banks, Wales

Curfews! Why are these problem children on the streets? What's going on in their homes? What are their parents doing?
Paul B, UK

People notice and take action when their wallet is involved

Richard N, UK
If the curfew applies to all children then it would be an unacceptable loss to freedom. A curfew applying to only recognised troublemakers would be unworkable. I believe the answer lies with making the parents accountable, with fines for compensation and punishment if their children break the law. People notice and take action when their wallet is involved.
Richard N, UK

Targeting petty crime is a good way of reducing more serious crime. This is because most serious criminals break minor laws without thought. New York saw dramatic reductions in street crime when they targeted people jumping the turnstiles at subway stations. Getting kids of the streets will reduce muggings, car crime, vandalism and burglary. Why would a 15 year-old be out after midnight?
Oliver Richardson, UK

I am sick of these so-called "Civil Liberties" groups saying they will challenge any new ruling as far as children are concerned. Obviously these people have never had their car broken into in the evening by kids, or felt unsafe when taking an evening walk to the corner shop. I used to live in an area where about 70 per cent of the crime was due to young thugs in the 10-15 year-old age bracket. If such a curfew had been in place, the problems would have literally vanished overnight. A curfew is only half the answer though. Parents should be reminded of their responsibilities, and be made accountable for their child's actions.
Alex, Glasgow, Scotland

Since a significant proportion of teenagers have no respect for the police, I imagine any curfew would be ignored. This will bring the police in conflict with teenagers who can't see that they are doing anything wrong (and probably aren't), and can only deepen the levels of distrust and disrespect. Also at night Wiltshire has only a handful of police but tens of thousands of bored teenagers. I think this is unenforceable. Wouldn't it be easier to give the kids something to do. Why not use assets that already exist. How about offering teachers the option to earn more by running Internet cafes or sports after hours. The teachers earn more, the kids have somewhere to go and aren't criminalised, and the police can get on with their real job.

No, they are not the answer. The answer is quite simply for parents and children to take responsibility for their actions and the consequences of their actions. People get away with literally anything these days with minimal fear of punishment, if anything, it is the victims who get all the hassle from the legal brigade. Society needs to change where poor behaviour and crime are not tolerated and thought cool. I hate to say it, but it seems that stronger discipline of children is the only way, and harsher punishment for their parents.
Jason, UK

Why should someone who is under 16 be singled out for something that has nothing to do with them. Again we see the minority dictating what the majority should be able to do. The majority of people do not get involved in crime. It is a small minority of small-minded fools. I don't see why I should be stopped from going out if I want to. It seems like a proposition from William Hague to me. What next are we going to be locked up and forced education down our throats until we are all brainwashed until we are 16?
Tom O'D, UK

As a student at University in the mid-1990's I protested against the Criminal Justice Bill for its intrusion of human civil rights. Some of the proposed ideas within the Bill are an infringement on individualism. However, with the growing yob culture some form of action has to be taken.

As a lot of the Bill is focused on the destructive aspect of alcohol then perhaps the government would do better by putting in place legal guidelines with regards to the advertising of alcohol. Too many adverts support the belief that drinking copious amounts is cool, it is this thinking that needs to be changed. We as a nation need to have a more adult view to our recreational use and abuse of alcohol as the actions of many adults in the media in this country are viewed by the young and that is where they find their role models. We can't blame the youth for having poor role models - we must think long and hard as to where they get their "yob culture" mentality from and attack that aspect of the problem.
Sharon B, UK

Something needs to be done to combat the gangs of young people hanging around on the streets. However a blanket curfew would probably be counter productive. As the proposals currently stand the curfew time is suggested as 9.00. This would lead to the closure of many youth groups including Scouts and Guides, sports teams etc as the kids would be unable to walk home when these finish, often at 9.30 or 10 p.m. We should be encouraging kids to take part in these kinds of activities rather than making it harder to participate. Can somebody explain to me why kids would rather hang around on street corners getting cold and bored rather than make use of these kinds of facilities available for them. And what kind of parent would let them. As for the civil rights of children to hang around on the streets, they can have that right when they accept their civil responsibility to not vandalise property, not verbally or physically attack passers by and not terrorise local residents.
Stuart, UK

Curfews will only be effective if there are more police on the streets to enforce it and not afraid to arrest them like is the case now. It shouldn't stop there though. Off-licences should be closed down for selling alcohol to youngsters. Parents should be prosecuted for failure to keep control of children. As for the civil liberties groups. Remember all the old folk and others who are afraid to go out because of these mindless yobs. What about their civil liberties?
Mark S, UK

Does Liberty support the right of the young to fall in with a bad crowd, smoke, drink and take other drugs to their detriment, get encouraged or persuaded to steal or commit other offences, or simply be vulnerable to violence, exploitation and the peer pressure of the mob? All "rights" granted to some will deny "rights" to others. The "right" to party all night doesn't fit with the "right" to a good night's sleep next door. The right to be a free citizen cannot give you the right to do anything you feel like. I don't think curfews are good, but I'll support them until a better idea comes along.
Clive Mitchell, UK

Curfews are not the solution. We need to find ways to occupy the young. As someone who has been involved in youth work for almost 20 years I have found that it is more and more difficult to find ways to interest today's youth. I have also noticed that discipline has been thrown out of the window. Today's teenagers are a reflection of their parents' lack of interest in community and individual responsibility.
Jeff Parry, UK

Until there is a change in culture, away from yob culture, then curfews and other such measures are necessary. How to generate this change in culture is the million dollar question.
Sean, Ireland

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