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Monday, September 6, 1999 Published at 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK

UK Politics

Child orders 'last resort'

Local authorities are urged to use curfew powers

Local authorities have warned that anti-social behaviour orders against unruly children should be used only as a last resort, despite the government's call for them to be used more often.

The BBC's Alison Holt: "There is genuine concern about how curfews will be enforced"
Home Secretary Jack Straw is to call on councils to remind them of their powers to impose such orders on unruly teenagers and to get tough with anti-social families who make life difficult for neighbours.

[ image: Jack Straw believes some councils have a
Jack Straw believes some councils have a "lack of grip" on the issue
The move follows the prime minister's call for Britain to rediscover its sense of morality.

A BBC survey has suggested five anti-social orders have been used in the last year.

Sir Jeremy Beecham, chairman of the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, said the use of orders was a last resort.

Sir Jeremy Beecham: "The use of such orders has got to be seen as a last resort"
He said: "You can't just make an order, you've got to apply to the courts, you've got to have the evidence, there is a whole procedure.

"In any case the use of such orders has got to be seen as a last resort.

"I'm sure there will be more orders made over time but we've got to work closely with the police and other agencies and we're doing that, we've created youth justice teams in local authorities and I'm sure there will be more visible action soon."

Sex and morality

Sir Jeremy said he did not believe "it's the business of local authorities to get into the field of sex and morality".

Council will receive a "sharp reminder" from Mr Straw later this week to use powers to obtain anti-social behaviour orders and child curfew orders, keeping known unruly youngsters off the streets.

No such curfew has yet been imposed.

Home Secretary Jack Straw: "The prime minister has a big vision"
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Straw said the orders were making a difference.

He said: "There's no doubt the threat of them is already helping to moderate people's behaviour.

"They are being put into the legislation at the request of the local authorities and I want to see them used more."

'Public responsibilities'

The home secretary said it was now necessary to cut through the administrative difficulties so more could be used.

Mr Straw said the government was not preaching to adults like the last government's "back to basics" campaign.

He said: "There is a world of a difference about being very protective about the right of adults to live their lives as they wish within a very wide framework and, on the other hand, saying how children are brought up is bound to involve matters of public responsibilities as well as private responsibilities."

[ image:  ]
Mr Straw's announcement follows an interview by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to a Sunday newspaper in which he urged parents and the government to work together to develop a "modern, responsible nation of citizenship" for the new generation.

He said parents should take more responsibility for their children, adding that 12-year-olds should not be on the streets at night.

The prime minister said he was appalled to hear about two 12-year-old girls announced they were pregnant and that was uppermost in his mind when he gave the interview, a Labour spokesman said.

"We need to find a new national moral purpose for this new generation," Mr Blair told the paper.

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