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The BBC's John Pienaar
"Critics see confiscating driving licences as potentially heavy handed"
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Sunday, 23 July, 2000, 18:26 GMT 19:26 UK
Young offenders may lose licences
Young Offenders' Institution
"Lifestyle sentencing" is an alternative to fines and imprisonment
Courts in England and Wales could be given a new power to punish young offenders by confiscating their driving licences.

In a government bid to get tough on crime young people who commit acts of violence, vandalism or public disorder could face the new sanction in addition to fines and possible imprisonment.

Ministers believe that for those with relatively high disposable incomes, a "lifestyle sentence" such as a driving ban, or possibly a ban from licensed premises, could have a greater deterrent effect than a fine.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes questioned the proposal and said removing driving licences should remain a punishment related to bad or illegal driving.

Experimental use

"Liberal Democrats support tougher penalties for bad drivers and removal of driving licences and more frequent removal of driving licences," he said.

"But we shouldn't confuse behaviour that has nothing to do with driving and a punishment that limits peoples' driving."

He wants a national debate on how to deal with drunken thugs.

The idea on driving licences was highlighted in Prime Minister Tony Blair's memo - leaked last week.

The government has made clear its determination to crack down on the yob culture

Downing Street spokesman
The power to confiscate licences was made available by the last Home Secretary, the Tories' Michael Howard, but was brought into effect by the Labour government.

It has been used on a trial basis in some parts of the country, with considerable success.

Any decision to expand the use of such powers nationwide would require ministerial approval and an order in Parliament.

Critics see the move as potentially heavy-handed, limiting - for instance - an offender's ability to earn a living.

The prime minister is believed to be keen to see the idea spread to the whole country.

'National debate'

But a Downing Street spokesman would say only: "This is one of a number of options that are being looked at. No decisions have been taken, and discussions continue".

But he added: "The government has made clear its determination to crack down on the yob culture."

Another Labour source said: "There's a lot of merit in having a range of penalties. What we need to do is apply penalties which actually hurt".

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See also:

01 Jun 00 | UK Politics
New laws target youth crime
28 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Straw urges crackdown on louts
17 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Full text of Blair memo
14 Nov 99 | Scotland
Study into youth crime strategy
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