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Monday, 4 December, 2000, 18:44 GMT
Teen curfews 'to combat yobs'

Queen's speech will focus on law and order
Night time curfews for children under 16 will be introduced as part of the Queen's speech.

Downing Street has confirmed the Queen will outline measures aimed at keeping children off the streets between 9pm and 6am when she announces the government's upcoming legislative programme this Wednesday.

It is thought the government is anxious to introduce new anti-crime measures to tackle what it sees as the mounting threat from "yob culture".

But the Conservatives, who are also keen to highlight their tough stance on law and order, have dismissed the proposals as "a gimmick".

Parents letting their children roam the streets at all times is an on-going problem

Peter Gammon, Police Superintendents' Association
A pilot scheme for curfews aimed at children under 10 was in introduced in Scotland but it has not been enforced.

Police and local authorities gave up on the scheme because they said it was hard to differentiate among age groups.

Shadow Home Secretary Ann Widdecombe said the system was unworkable.

"If you can't tell the difference between 10 and 11-year-olds how will police be able to identify who's 16 and who's 17?

"Ask any publican and they will tell you how hard it is.

"If they haven't got enough police at the moment how is this possibly going to work?" she said.

"This is about the government being seen to be doing something big before a general election."

Juvenile crime

But the Police Superintendents Association has welcomed the proposal.

Its president Peter Gammon said curfews would be carefully targeted in areas where juvenile crime is a particular problem.

"Parents letting their children roam the streets at all times is an on-going problem, " he said.

In Wednesday's speech anti-crime legislation is likely to take centre stage.

'Breaking point'

Some voluntary organisations have also expressed doubts about curfews.

Nacro, which represents former offenders, said curfews were not necessarily the answer to reducing crime.

Unlock, the national association of ex-offenders, also warned against the plans.

"By the time they reach 16 the battle to make law-abiding citizens of them will already have been lost," said chief executive Mark Leech.

The proposals to tackle the problem amounted to "sweeping it behind the front door and pretending it doesn't exist", he said.

Counter productive

A spokesman for the Police Federation, which represents more junior officers, was also worried about the implications for some forces.

He said policing a curfew could prove counter-productive as it could take up too much time and deliver relatively small benefits.

It is understood that the system would work by relying on the police and local authorities to specifically request a curfew in a particular area.

The decision as to whether it was imposed would remain with the home secretary.

The Conservatives are set to outline measures on new prison sentences, child sex abuse and drug dealing ahead of the Queen's speech.

The Liberal Democrats have published their version of the Queen's speech which focuses on reforming transport systems and replacing the House of Lords with a fully elected chamber.

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See also:

05 Dec 00 | Scotland
Teenage curfews warning
03 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair backs down on fining 'louts'
04 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Kennedy unveils Lib Dem 'bills'
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