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Thursday, 2 August, 2001, 01:31 GMT 02:31 UK
Teen curfew laws attacked
The new legislation is unenforceable, say critics
Opponents of new legislation giving local authorities the power to impose curfews on older children say it is unenforceable.

The law will extend curfew schemes to include youths up to the age of 15.

We may actually end up with more trouble on the streets than we had before

Paul Ennals
National Children's Bureau
But critics say the scheme is at best little more than a gimmick and at worst will increase tensions between young people and authority.

The legislation extends the scheme whereby local authorities can apply for curfew orders for children under 10, to keep them off the streets and out of trouble during the night.

Ministers say this will allow authorities to better protect communities and young people.

The new law also permits the police, as well as local authorities, to make curfew applications.

Paul Ennals, chief executive of charity the National Children's Bureau, told BBC Radio 4's World at One that this seemed to be a "knee jerk reaction".

"There is a real risk that the measures might increase the levels of tension between children and young people and the authority figures in their community".

He fears that this could stigmatise young people.

"We will end up with young people feeling worse about authority in their area.

"We may actually end up with more trouble on the streets than we had before."

Insufficient police

Shadow home office minister David Lidington said: "The orders are still too bureaucratic and unwieldy.

Curfews extended
There are no criminal penalties for ignoring curfews
"Labour are yet to come to grips with the fact that there are insufficient police to enforce them".

Local child curfew orders were introduced in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

Local curfew orders can also be sought for troublespots that are known for anti-social behaviour or considered to be dangerous for children.

More than a year after the law appeared on the statute books, no local authority had applied for an order.

Youth crime targeted

Home Office minister Beverley Hughes is convinced the new measures will help protect communities and reduce youth crime.

"The police, as well as local authorities, now have clear powers to take any child found in breach of a local child curfew order home to their parents, or to a safe place."

She said the law would help to protect older children "from adults such as drug dealers or pimps, or older peers encouraging them into criminal activities".

The extended curfew orders can cover 9pm-6am and last up to 90 days, after which they can be renewed.

But there is no criminal penalty for breaking the curfews.

According to the Home Office, a similar scheme started in Scotland in 1997 - the Hamilton Child Safety Initiative - has proved effective.

After six months 87% of parents of children returned home by police approved of the initiative, and crime associated with juveniles fell by up to 40% in some areas.

The BBC's home affairs correspondent Jane Hughes
"Some police forces say it will damage relations with youths"
UK Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes
"We hope the changes will help local authorities and the police"
Ch Supt Louis Munn of Hamilton Police
"The scheme is resource intensive"
Richard Garside of the crime reduction charity NACRO
"The police will often use their discretion, but often they won't"

Child curfews
Will they stop anti-social behaviour?
See also:

01 Aug 01 | Scotland
Curfew scheme stands alone
01 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Wardens aim to clean up streets
24 Dec 00 | Scotland
Executive backs yob curfews
06 Sep 99 | UK Politics
Child orders 'last resort'
14 Sep 99 | UK Politics
Straw attacks civil rights groups
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