'Trouble happens during day'

Teenagers scornful of plan to restrict their liberty Rebecca Fowler discovers

As they slurped milkshakes noisily through straws and enjoyed an honest game of football the children of north London were united in their response to Labour's proposed teenage curfew: well harsh all round.

The issue of rising youth crime had not gone unnoticed among them. But with dismissive glee they concluded a curfew was an affront to their liberty, and would be ignored by the worst offenders anyway.

In Hampstead Lili Harris, 12, who was enjoying lunch with her friends at Ed's Diner, said: "It's a really stupid idea."

She added: "It's not going to stop crime, it'll just mean some of it might happen at a different time, and it could be very isolating for the rest of us not to be allowed out."

Their parents were also unimpressed, including Lili's mother, Mary Behan, a teacher in neighbouring Camden which is home to some of the area's less affluent families.

Ms Behan said: "The kids I teach get into quite a lot of trouble, but its during the day. The drug selling, the drug buying, the shoplifting all goes on before closing time. The idea of a curfew is ridiculous all round."

Laura Phillips, 14, described it as a form of teen persecution.

She said: "It's only the minority that commit crime. The majority of us just hang out, and a curfew is harsh. Does this mean that Prince William will have to stay in too?"

Her friend Mary Fitzherbert, 13, said: "We should be able to go where we like when we like. We've got to have the same liberties as anyone else."

Most children were satisfied with the times their parents expected them home in the evening: between 8.30 and 9pm for the pre-teen, and between 10 and midnight for the older ones, who often stayed with friends at weekends.

Despite concern among parents over the deviant behaviour of some children, none supported a curfew. Nicola Baxter, 41, who lives in Maida Vale, has two daughters aged 12 and 15. "The worst trouble makers are never going to be controlled by something like this," she said.

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