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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 November, 2003, 16:57 GMT
McConnell denies 'demonising' youth
Graffiti
McConnell says the bill will help improve the lives of young people
First Minister Jack McConnell has launched a renewed defence of his administration's plans to curb anti-social behaviour.

Mr McConnell told youngsters at a Labour gathering in Glasgow that young people were themselves often the victims of anti-social behaviour.

And he argued that the crackdown would help improve the lives of youngsters.

His defence came after proposed anti-social behaviour legislation, whose provisions include extending electronic tagging to the under 16s and bringing that age group within the scope of anti-social behaviour orders, drew criticism from some quarters.

At the Scottish Liberal Democrats conference last weekend some delegates complained youngsters were being "demonised".

Some would have you believe that what we are doing is attacking the rights of young people, in fact we are trying to set young people free
Jack McConnell
And Tayside chief constable John Vine, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland acknowledged on Wednesday that there had been criticism that youngsters could be "stigmatised".

"This argument may have a ring of truth, but only if aspects of the new anti-social bill are applied with a heavy hand," said the police chief.

But Mr McConnell, speaking at the Scottish Youth and Student Conference in Glasgow, insisted the legislation would help improve the lives of young people.

"Some would have you believe that what we are doing is attacking the rights of young people, in fact we are trying to set young people free," he said.

"It is not just the elderly who are scared to walk the streets at night. Too often the victims of the crimes of the minority of young people are other young people.

Youths
Some believe youngsters could be "stigmatised" by the legislation
"The young suffer, just as much as everyone else, from the consequences of anti-social behaviour."

Mr McConnell argued that young people were left with nowhere to go when playgrounds are littered with broken bottles or youth clubs are taken over by gangs.

"It is young men who are most likely to be caught up in the fight in a city centre pub," he said.

"And we shouldn't forget the anti-social behaviour of the school bully."

He told the Glasgow gathering: "Young people want us to stand up for them and tackle these problems.

"They want us to remove those things that stand in their way of fulfilling their potential and become full and active members of their community."

It is vital the Scottish government uses the legislation sensibly to target the behaviour of the minority of young people that cause havoc
Nicola Sturgeon
SNP justice spokeswoman
However, the Scottish National Party (SNP) warned the first minister that he cannot rely on "tough talk" to tackle the problem.

Justice spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon said: "While I welcome the Anti-social Behaviour Bill in theory, it is vital the Scottish government uses the legislation sensibly to target the behaviour of the minority of young people that cause havoc in their local communities.

"The first minister must ensure that this bill will provide support for local communities but must also guarantee that proposals such as tagging young people are only used in the most extreme of circumstances and not as a cheap alternative for tackling the problem."

She added that it was vital to solve the core problem of staff shortages in social work departments to stop young people re-offending.


SEE ALSO:
Crime plans 'stigmatise' children
02 Oct 03  |  Scotland
Bill aims for safer Scotland
30 Oct 03  |  Scotland
Youth crime cases opened up
29 Sep 03  |  Scotland
Warning over youth crime measures
14 Aug 03  |  Scotland
Anti-social benefits plan attacked
12 Aug 03  |  Scotland
Action on disorder promised
26 Jun 03  |  Scotland
Youth tagging age 'up for debate'
22 Jun 03  |  Scotland


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