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Norman Warner, chairman of the Youth Justice Board
"I think the pilots have been a great success"
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Thursday, 1 June, 2000, 05:48 GMT 06:48 UK
New laws target youth crime
Child curfew
Civil rights activists say new powers are excessive
Controversial laws aimed at stopping young offenders from continuing a career in crime come into force across England and Wales on Thursday.

Curfews can now be placed on children under 10 and they can also be ordered to attend school or keep away from certain people or places.

Home Secretary Jack Straw says the measures - contained in the Crime and Disorder Act - will have a genuine impact on youth crime.

Juvenile offenders must take responsibility for their actions

Jack Straw

But the opposition says there are big flaws in the government's approach and civil rights group Liberty said that existing powers made the curfews unnecessary.

Liberty said they could be deemed disproportionate punishments under the European Convention on Human Rights when it comes into effect later this year.

Shadow Home Office minister David Lidington described the government's approach to juvenile crime as "flawed".

He said more places in secure training centres for persistent offenders were needed, coupled with an increase in police numbers.

The Youth Justice Board, which is implementing the reforms, stressed: "This is aimed at under-10s who are really out of control, where other measures have failed.

"It should only be used in extreme circumstances."

End to 'yellow cards'

Jack Straw said that "juvenile offenders must take responsibility for their actions", adding that the reforms had already worked well in 10 pilot schemes.

Jack Straw
Jack Straw: Defended pilot test results
Final warnings will replace repeat cautions, with youngsters forced to undergo a programme addressing the causes of their crimes.

Any new offence will automatically result in criminal charges under the change, which was used more than 3,500 times in the pilot studies.

"We are ending the continuous `yellow card' syndrome, where offenders could be given one warning after another," Mr Straw said.

The reforms mean that courts will no longer be able to give a conditional discharge if a youngster has appeared in court in the previous two years.

They will also be able to remand 12 to 14-year-olds into secure accommodation to prevent them jumping bail, Mr Straw added.

Making amends

Only two Child Safety Orders, which aim to keep youngsters off the streets and out of temptation, have been approved since trials started 18 months ago.

Reparation orders, forcing youngsters to make amends for their crime, were served 1,270 times in the trials.

And 841 young criminals were put on short, intensive community-based programmes of punishment and rehabilitation under Action Plan Orders.

Officials claimed that many of the parents given one of the 284 Parenting Orders issued during the scheme had welcomed the help they received.

Norman Warner, chair of the Youth Justice Board, said: "Well organised early strikes targeted at first or second time offenders do work.

"Rather than allow anti-social and criminal behaviour to develop, the final warning and the raft of other measures available to the youth justice system can stop the rot."

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