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CHILDREN WARN ANTI SOCIAL PLANS COULD CREATE TENSION WITH THE POLICE

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Four out of five children fear that Anti Social Behaviour Bill plans will create tension between them and the polic...
Four out of five children fear that Anti Social Behaviour Bill plans will create tension between them and the police, an independent report reveals.

Children across Britain were quizzed about what they thought of the Anti Social Behaviour Bill.

An NOP poll, commissioned by a coalition of 13 charities including The Children's Society, Barnardo's, NCH, The National Youth Agency and National Children's Bureau (NCB), found that 78 per cent of 10 to 16 year olds fear tension will be caused if police are given the powers to move them on for no reason.

The coalition is calling for the government to change its plans. An amendment to clause 31 of the Bill would make sure that the local community, including children, is involved in any decision to give police powers to disperse groups of two or more children under 16.

The NOP poll also found that of the 10 to 16 year olds questioned:

- 70 per cent agree that police should not be given powers to move them on if they have not done anything wrong

- Four out of five say curfews are not fair because not all young people cause problems

- Three-fifths (60 per cent) believe curfews will stop them doing things they enjoy

- 81 per cent say that police are very important in helping children lead safe and secure lives

And 82 per cent of those questioned reveal that children sometimes 'hang out on the streets' because there is nowhere else for them to go.

The government has failed to ask children what they think of the plans. Yet the NOP poll found that 90 per cent believed they should have their say before any law that restricts their freedom is given the go-ahead.

The Children's Society chief executive Bob Reitemeier says: 'It is essential that problem behaviour is tackled. But these plans are discriminatory and, if they go ahead, will damage the trust between adults and children. Police powers to disperse groups and fast-track child curfews may penalise law-abidi ng children with nowhere to meet. No wonder the children we spoke to felt this was divisive.

'The government is planning to significantly restrict the freedom of children without asking them what they think. Parents and children also tell us that they prefer to meet up with a group of friends makes them feel safer. Yet the government is now planning to legislate against this.'

Graham Duffy, 16, who attended an NCB-organised national children's conference called Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover, says: 'The majority of young people don't hang out because they want to cause trouble - they do so because there's little else for them to do.

'The police in my town are already moving young people away from local

'hangouts' - but they only end up further down the town in even larger

numbers or go to quieter places which are less safe. I'm worried that under

the new law, this situation could become even worse.'

Notes

- NOP Research Group questioned 702 children aged 10 to 16 face to face in Great Britain onSeptember 13 2003.

- Members of the coalition fighting against Anti Social Behaviour Bill plans are: Barnardo's, Children's Rights Alliance for England, The Children's Society, Family Service Units, NACRO, the National Association for Youth Justice, the National Children's Bureau, NCH, NCVCCO, NSPCC, The National Youth Agency, Save the Children UK and YMCA England.

- The coalition is campaigning for clause 31 of the Anti Social Behaviour Bill to include an obligation to consult with members of the local community.

- The coalition is also opposed to the introduction of new powers in part 4 of the bill to 1. allow police to disperse groups of two or more people 2. remove young people under 16 who are unsupervised in public places from 9pm to 6am to their place of residence.

- Two-thirds of 2,600 children aged seven to 16, questioned by The Children's Society and Children's Play Council for Playday in August this y ear, said they like to play outside daily, mostly to meet friends. See www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news/index_news.html

- A July 2003 survey of 2,000 seven to 15 year olds, commissioned by Save the Children and British Gas, found that 38% of young people made a positive choice to spend time on the street in order to be with their friends.

Read the poll results here.

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