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Wednesday, September 30, 1998 Published at 05:27 GMT 06:27 UK


Unruly children face curfew

Children under 10 could be forced to stay at home at night

New measures to curb troublesome children including curfews and parenting orders have come into effect.

The measures are part of the government's multi-million pound strategy to fight crime.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy on criticism of "heavy-handed" measures
In 30 pilot schemes, local councils will be able to apply for child curfews, enabling them to order disruptive youngsters under 10 off the streets between 9pm and 6am.

Children out with responsible parents or adults will be exempt.

Those caught breaking the curfew are likely to be taken home or held for their own safety in a police station.

Another scheme will allow orders to be placed on children - telling them not to associate with a gang, for instance.

And parents can be ordered to go to counselling or guidance sessions.

[ image: A pilot scheme in Lanarkshire has reduced crime]
A pilot scheme in Lanarkshire has reduced crime
The initiatives, ushered in by the Crime and Disorder Act, form a major part of the government's commitment to be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime".

A pilot scheme by Strathclyde Police in Hamilton, Lanarkshire has been credited with bringing about a one third drop in the juvenile crime rate.

But some campaigners have expressed concern that the curfews are too draconian.

The Penal Affairs Consortium said the powers were too sweeping and could be applied to children playing football near their homes on a summer evening as well as those in moral danger.

The National Association for Youth Justice also warned that children might be deliberately staying away from home to escape problems there.

More pilot schemes will start on Thursday to trial other measures provided for in the act.

These include child safety orders, again aimed at the under-10s who are falling foul of the law.

The new orders will work by placing the child under the supervision of a responsible officer and requiring the child to meet certain arrangements.

For example, an eight-year-old girl caught shoplifting with older girls could be told not to associate with them and to steer clear of a particular shopping centre. Provision could also be made for her to go to a youth club.

And parents could become subject to orders if their children run into trouble.

In another pilot scheme, magistrates will be able to send them to counselling or guidance sessions to learn parenting skills.

Other new measures or provisions taking effect from Wednesday include:

  • Scrapping doli incapax, the principle that children aged 10-13 cannot tell the difference between naughtiness and serious wrong

  • Abolition of the death penalty for treason and piracy with violence, the last remaining capital offences on the statute book

  • A shake-up of the youth justice system overseen by the new Youth Justice Board

  • Extra penalties for people convicted of racially-motivated assault, harassment and public order offences

  • A requirement for police forces and local authorities to work together to draw up local crime and disorder strategies

    Other measures being tried out locally on a pilot scheme basis from Thursday include:

  • New drug treatment and testing programmes for drugs-related offenders

  • A new, final warning scheme for young offenders made up of a reprimand, final warning, then charges

  • Reparation orders where youngsters are ordered to make reparations and apologise to the victim of their crime

  • Streamlined court system to cut delays bringing defendants to justice

  • Allowing defendants in custody to appear in court by video link to cut time wasted travelling to court

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