Curfew age may be raised from 10 to 16

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The Independent Online

Jack Straw was accused of making a U-turn yesterday after he revealed he may increase the age limit from 10 to 16 for the controversial child curfew orders that place tearaway youngsters under house arrest, because the measures have been a flop.

Jack Straw was accused of making a U-turn yesterday after he revealed he may increase the age limit from 10 to 16 for the controversial child curfew orders that place tearaway youngsters under house arrest, because the measures have been a flop.

The Home Secretary agreed there might be a problem with the design of child curfew orders. None has been sought by a local authority or police force. The orders, available for 14 months, are supposed to allow authorities to ban troublemakers from the streets at night.

"It may be that we set the age for curfew orders too low at 10," said Mr Straw. "We are now consulting local authorities and the police about whether it should be raised to 16, which is the age limit in Scotland ... we will give that very sympathetic consideration."

He also agreed anti-social curfew orders aimed at "neighbours from hell" were also failing to have an impact because of a low take-up. The civil orders, imposed by a court, are intended to prohibit disruptive individuals from indulging in anti-social behaviour, particularly on problem estates. Breaking an order is a criminal offence.

But so far only a handful have been issued. Mr Straw said: "It's certainly not unworkable. What it suggests is that local authorities and the police have not been as vigorous as we thought they would and they said they would be in pursuing these orders."

Where orders had been used, they had proved very effective, he insisted.

The Shadow home affairs spokesman David Lidington said: "This is calamity Jack at his very best. They [the measures] were Tony Blair's flagship crime policy. Now they have admitted they were half-baked from the start, and are having to go back to scratch."