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Wednesday, 1 August, 2001, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Curfew scheme stands alone
Child curfew graphic
The Hamilton scheme was launched in 1997
There are no plans to extend child curfew schemes in Scotland - despite the introduction of new legislation south of the border.

A pilot project in Hamilton which led the way in the UK has been hailed as a success by police, the local authority and the Scottish Executive.

However, it has been attacked by campaigners who say it breeds distrust between generations.

And the executive has admitted that no other area has asked for permission to follow in Hamilton's wake.

We would back other forces if they decided a similar scheme would work in their area

Scottish Executive spokeswoman
A spokeswoman said there had been a positive effect from the scheme, which was set up independently by Strathclyde Police and South Lanarkshire Council.

"We would back other forces if they decided a similar scheme would work in their area," said the spokeswoman.

But she added: "We have no plans at present to introduce curfew orders in Scotland.

"We have not been asked by the police to do so but would consider them if we are."

The new legislation giving councils in England and Wales the power to impose curfews on older children came into force on Wednesday.

Local authorities already had the power to apply for curfew orders for children under 10.

Age range

But ministers decided that changes were needed after it emerged that no local authority had applied for an order, more than a year after the law appeared on the statute books.

The new law, which critics have attacked as unenforceable, will extend the age range to include youths up to the age of 15.

The Hamilton scheme, which bans children aged under 16 from venturing from their homes unsupervised after 2100 BST, was introduced in 1997.

Police officers who come across children whom they believe to be in danger or tempted to become involved with crimes like vandalism can return the youngsters to their parents.

Eight children were escorted home by police on the first night, and a study showed that a total of 280 youngsters - some as young as four - were returned home in the first year.

Police on the beat
Police return youngsters to their parents
Only five of those children were the subject of criminal charges during that period.

A study of the first 12 months of the scheme suggested significant backing for the Child Safety Initiative from parents, children and local traders.

Its success led to the initiative being expanded from three housing schemes to cover the whole of Hamilton, along with the neighbouring areas of Larkhall and Blantyre.

At the same time, South Lanarkshire Council launched the first of its "state-of-the-art" youth facilities, in which it is investing more than 3m.

Campaigner Stuart Waiton of Generation Youth Issues - who has written a book about the Hamilton initiative - said the Scottish experience had not been a positive development.

Hanging about

"It is assumed that these initiatives help rebuild communities, that's the way it is presented," he said.

"But in fact what actually happens is that it creates distrust between different sections of the community.

"The fact that you have a curfew of all kids up to 15 suggests to older people that kids that hang around the streets are a danger.

"The distinction between what is a criminal act by a child and what is teenagers hanging about is completely lost.

"Rather than helping to rebuild communities you undermine them, you reinforce the idea that young children are a danger."

The fact that you have a curfew of all kids up to 15 suggests to older people that kids that hang around the streets are a danger

Campaigner Stuart Waiton
He said the authorities should stop promoting the idea that children should be swept off the streets.

And he said that it increased the paranoia among parents at a time when children were already playing outside less than ever.

Plans to extend the child curfew scheme in England and Wales were outlined by Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Queen's Speech in December.

Police in Hamilton said then that the initiative had proven a major success.

Chief superintendent Louis Munn said it had cut juvenile crime by 49% in its pilot year.

He was keen to stress that the initiative was not a curfew.

John Scott
John Scott of the Scottish Human Rights Centre
"We do not sweep the streets of young people at night but escort home those we feel are involved in or at risk from crime," he said.

However, John Scott of the Scottish Human Rights Centre said the Hamilton scheme had not been an unequivocal success.

He said some statistics had suggested that crime had actually risen and pointed out that some youngsters had seen the curfew as a challenge.

"My experience of the Hamilton experience is that it wasn't popular and it wasn't successful," he said.

He said it was telling that no other area had repeated the Hamilton experiment.

However, he praised the council's extra investment in facilities and resources for youngsters.

See also:

01 Aug 01 | UK
Child curfew laws extended
05 Dec 00 | Scotland
Teenage curfews warning
04 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Teen curfews 'to combat yobs'
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