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Sunday, May 16, 1999 Published at 20:38 GMT 21:38 UK


Councils 'shun child curfew laws'

Housing estates are identified as a problem area for youth crime

New child curfew measures have failed to arouse the enthusiasm of the local authorities meant to put them into practice, a study has said.

The BBC survey found that 87% of the local councils questioned said they were unlikely to use curfew measures set out in the Crime and Disorder Act in the coming year.

The act, which became law last year, grants local authorities the power to impose curfews for children under 10 as a measure against youth crime.

Many councils told the survey they were worried about crime among under-10s, but did not see them as a particular problem in their plans for fighting crime.

Most said they could see no use for curfews.

Ian Tresseden, of Coventry Council, said the city would prefer to see a welfare-based approach to dealing with young troublemakers.

"We'd not be wanting to criminalise under-10s - we'd be wanting to intervene positively with those children.

"Once police are involved with young people there is a tendency for those children to be labelled as bad ones."


The BBC's Branwen Jeffreys: "Persistent problems have led to security cameras being installed"
Paul Ennals, director of the National Children's Bureau, believes that the curfew laws will be forgotten in a few years.

"I think this legislation will be seen as one of those mistakes which governments make when they think they are responding to popular demand," Mr Ennals told the BBC.

'Need for measures'

But Charles Clark, spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said there have been cases of young children being out of control, which warranted the use of special measures.

"Some of them who were under 10 had got balaclavas on and were roaring around in stolen vehicles," he said.

"I certainly think that in some parts of the country there will be a need for measures to deal with those children."

Paul Boateng: "When young children are out and about after nine o'clock at night that is an indicator of a problem"
Home Office Minister Paul Boateng insists that the powers contained in the act are important.

"Where under-10s are identified as presenting a particular problem, then the local authority, with the police, having consulted the whole community, ought to have the powers available to them to cope with that."

Mr Boateng said the presence of children on the streets at night was an indication of a problem that needed to be tackled.

"Far from criminalising them, what the child curfew order does is to enable the police to take them home and then to require the local authority - the social services department - to come along and find out what the problem was."

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