Labour spoiler on child crime

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The Independent Online
Labour's home affairs spokesman, Jack Straw, yesterday upstaged a long- awaited government discussion paper on child crime due out next week.

The Home Office policy proposals will "examine what more can be done to identify children at risk of offending".

But Mr Straw stole a march on the Government yesterday, expanding on previous pledges to tackle youth crime, and committed Labour to making "our streets and communities safe and secure".

He said, in a speech in his Blackburn constituency: "For too long, the problems caused by disorder and anti-social behaviour have been placed low down the political agenda by central government. This attitude must change. Disorder and low-level offending have a profound effect on people's quality of life. It is time to act."

In addition to Labour's manifesto commitments to halve the time from arrest to sentence for persistent young offenders, and to get 250,000 under-25s off benefit and into work - "an anti-crime policy as well as an economic policy" - Mr Straw proposed an eight-point action plan to tackle bad behaviour by the young.

The package included child protection area orders, to deal with under- 10s out, unsupervised, late at night; a replacement of repeat cautioning by a final warning system; parental responsibility orders, to make parents face up to the responsibility of their children's conduct; and a new duty to make local authorities work in partnership with the police to reduce crime.

Mr Straw said: "We have to develop local responses to the problems that most concern our communities. The precise problems and the responses will vary across the country, but the approach will be the same.

"What are people most concerned about, and how can these problems best be tackled, using the resources of the police, the local authority, and all the other key players in the local community?"