The Queen's Speech: Total ban on handguns by summer will outlaw 40,000

Queen's Speech: Law and Order
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Indy Politics
All handguns, including the less powerful .22 revolvers, are expected to be banned by the summer, it was disclosed yesterday.

A Firearms Bill is one of a raft of measures proposed by the Government which aims to crack down on youth crime and antisocial behaviour while enhancing citizens' rights.

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, yesterday signalled the Government's determination to overcome any threat by the House of Lords to block a new law to "prohibit the private possession of handguns".

He said that he intended the new Bill to be "short and tight" and to be in place "this side of summer". The new legislation will outlaw an estimated 40,000 .22 handguns at a cost of at least pounds 12m in compensation. MPs will be given a free vote on the measure - which is bound to be pas- sed by Labour's huge majority.

The ban is expected to come into force at the same time as the Firearms Act, which outlaws large-calibre handguns. Collection of the revolvers could then start in the autumn.

Mr Straw said his department would give "active consideration" to restriction on the possession of shotguns and airguns.

The main law and order measure proposed yesterday was the Crime and Disorder Bill, which will almost certainly be preceded by a White Paper, but is intended to be law by the end of the year.

One of the most controversial aspects is the creation of a nightime curfew for children aged 10 and under. On youth justice, the Bill will bring fast-track punishment for persistent young offenders to halve the time from arrest to sentencing.

Other measures include replacing repeat cautions with a single, final warning; scrapping the assumption that children aged 10 to under 14 are incapable of telling wrong from right; giving courts new powers, including imposing "reparation orders" to force children as young as 10 to make amends by working for their victims or the community; and introduces new orders to make parents face up to responsibility for their children's misbehaviour.

On the disorder front, there will be a new "community safety order" to curb antisocial behaviour by nuisance neighbours and new offences of racial harassment and racially-motivated violence. Action against alcohol-related crime, including greater use of bans on street drinking, will be introduced.

On the question of civil rights there are plans for a Bill incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic legislation; a Data Protection Bill; and an Immigration Bill which will provide for a right of appeal for those threatened with deportation on national security grounds.

Measures to reform the Crown Prosecution Service, such as appointing a chief crown prosecutor in each police force, are to go ahead, but do not need legislation.

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