Page last updated at 17:59 GMT, Monday, 23 February 2009

Tories may 'ground' troublemakers

Chris Grayling: 'It doesn't criminalise them in the long term'

Young troublemakers could be confined to their homes, outside school hours, for a month under plans being unveiled by the Conservatives.

In his first major speech as shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling said those who break curfews "should expect to find themselves in the cells".

Police would apply for a court order to "ground" youths for up to a month.

He also said police should be able to take youngsters caught misbehaving to stations and call their parents.

The speech to the Local Government Association was his first major speech since becoming shadow home secretary in January's Tory reshuffle.

Persistent troublemakers

He said tough action was needed to stamp out anti-social behaviour and said 10-year-olds caught causing trouble should be "sent home to bed".

Should the Conservatives win power at the next general election, he said: "I will instruct our police to remove young troublemakers from our streets altogether, not just move them on to disrupt a different street."

Those caught doing "something stupid" should be able to be taken back to police stations and their parents called to come to pick them up.

If they break that curfew order they should expect to find themselves in the cells
Chris Grayling

"We're exploring the best way of making this possible but it's got to be the right thing in some cases," he said.

"I think our police need the power to ground a young persistent troublemaker - in the hope that we can stop them from getting so far into trouble that they end up in the criminal justice system."

"Our police should have powers to go straight to a magistrate and get an order against that troublemaker confining them to their homes for up to a month - except for during school hours. And if they break that curfew order they should expect to find themselves in the cells."

Mr Grayling also said there was a "strong case" to end the 24-hour licensing changes: "It has not created a continental cafe culture - it has just made things worse in many town and city centres."

He said that if the Conservatives won the next election and he was home secretary he would "stop the ridiculous system of cautions that has built up even for serious offences".

'Unacceptable'

More cautions were being used, he said, because "it means case closed - a tick in the box - a crime solved for the official figures to be sent to the Home Office".

There would also be a cut in paperwork police had to do: "If I'm home secretary, the police should expect to get much more freedom to do the job - but I want to make it absolutely clear to our police chiefs that I will expect them to deliver real improvements in return - and if they don't there'll be all hell to pay. "

Mr Grayling added: "The Conservatives are the party of law and order - law and order based on common sense, strong families and communities and a system which places the victim above the criminal.

"Labour has had eleven years and they have collectively failed - their musical chairs based system of home secretaries has left Britain a more dangerous, less civilised place to live in. They have been soft on crime and soft on the causes of crime."

On Sunday Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said it was "unacceptable" for parents not to know what their children did at night, after police in 27 council areas in England picked up and returned 120 youngsters late on Friday.

Policing minister Vernon Coaker responded to Mr Grayling's speech by saying: "Under the Tories, crime doubled. With Labour, crime has fallen by a third. Labour stands shoulder to shoulder with the police and local communities in tackling crime and anti-social behaviour and keeping our streets safe."

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "The Conservatives claim to be different from Labour, but this is just an at-home-ASBO.

"We should stop criminalising children and instead use community panels outside the formal justice system to make the punishment fit the crime and head children away from trouble."

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