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Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 12:49 GMT
What happened to last year's big idea?
Child curfew graphic
Child curfews were heralded as a big idea last year

Last year's Queen's Speech promised child curfews as part of an attempt to crack down on 'yob culture'. But one year on, none have been successfully established.

Another Queen's Speech written by Tony Blair this week outlined new measures in the fight against crime and anti-social behaviour.

These include fixed penalty fines for minor offences and a crackdown on graffiti, fly-tipping and the use of airguns.

Last year child curfews were unveiled by then Home Secretary Jack Straw in the Criminal Justice and Police Bill.

But despite several attempts, no curfews have been successfully established.

In March this year local authorities in Corby, Northamptonshire decided to impose a 9pm curfew on all children under 15.

Outrage

The plans provoked outrage from civil liberties groups and by October the plans were shelved.

The closest the UK has come to curfews to crack down on "yob culture" was a pilot scheme launched in the Scottish town of Hamilton in 1997.

Despite being a selective curfew and a soft forerunner of New Labour's curfew, the so-called Children and Young Persons Safety Initiative, known as the Hamilton curfew, has rarely been out of the headlines.

Pressure groups have accused the police of harassment, and suspecting innocent young people of criminal activities.

But the community police department of Strathclyde police in Hamilton said the purpose was to keep children safe.


If police officers see a child in a vulnerable state they have the responsibility to take that child home.

Sgt Gordon Govan

It was launched as a result of a concern about the safety of children becoming involved in juvenile crime

Community police sergeant Gordon Govan said: "It's been mistakenly called a curfew but it's not.

'Old-fashioned policing'

"If police officers see a child in a vulnerable state they have the responsibility to take that child home.

"It's just old-fashioned policing and it's also about making parents more socially responsible."

Strathclyde said that in the first six months of the project they saw a 49% reduction in juvenile crime and a 23% reduction in crime overall.

Compelling statistics for any government.

A survey just months after the launch showed 87% of parents of returned children supported the scheme and 93% of traders in the area said it should continue.

Sgt Govan said: "Kids want to be outside, but they also want to be safe outside."

'Poor support'

But the Scottish human rights centre said there was no "identifiable public demand for the curfew".

Included in a report on the Hamilton curfew is a survey of children which concludes that 60% of young people in the area disagreed with the style of policing.


It confirmed adults' fears of younger people and that police are needed to keep the peace in the streets.

Stuart Waiton
Critic of Hamilton curfew

Nearly 90% of them had also taken on a negative view of the police authorities, said the report.

The time and resources invested into such community policing measures has also been criticised against a backdrop of falling expenditure in police services.

"They can't fill every street with police all the time," said Stuart Waiton, a long-time critic of the Hamilton initiative.

'Confirms fear of the young'

He said: "It confirmed adults' fears of younger people and that police are needed to keep the peace in the streets."

Mr Waiton said communities needed to be able to live together and deal with young people.

The scheme may be considered a success but no similar projects have appeared in other parts of Scotland.

It may have been too controversial, or just too expensive.

As the government already knows, introducing blanket curfews in UK "hotspots" is no easy task.

But they may, like town centre CCTV systems, become commonplace in the future.


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02 Aug 01 | UK
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