Curfew experiment

THE commercial town of Redruth in Cornwall is not the first place you would expect to find a pioneering social experiment. But July, August and September saw this holidaymakers stop-off play host to a new(ish) idea

THE commercial town of Redruth in Cornwall is not the first place you would expect to find a pioneering social experiment.

But July, August and September saw this holidaymakers' stop-off play host to a new(ish) idea in tackling antisocial behaviour - a curfew for all aged 16 and under past nine o'clock. Previously a tactic associated with racial segregation in America in the 1940s and 50s or Nazi suppression of Jews, the decision by the local authority to enforce a curfew discriminating by age raised more than a few eyebrows in human and children's rights organisations.

Spearheaded by the local police, the curfew was described as 'voluntary' and is claimed by the police to have reduced

Anti-Social Behaviour by 60% compared to last year. Yet the curfew was anything but voluntary. Young people who refused to obey the curfew could find themselves and their parents placed under a Social Order, a humiliating edict that doesn't need a jury be issued. And this supposed reduction in Anti-Social Behaviour may even tell us more about the national attitude towards young people than it does about the young people themselves. 'Teenagers hanging around' is one of the biggest complaints in the British Crime Survey. And the MP for Redruth, Julia Goldsworthy (ironically a Liberal Democrat), told BBC News that "Young people don't have to [cause] anti-social behaviour to be intimidating to residents.. Simply hanging around .. can be enough of a threat". This damning self-indictment of the Liberal's own values shows just how widespread the national phobia of youth has become. Even the mere possibility of teenagers being observed 'hanging around' is now a threat.


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Interestingly, a similar scheme in Richmond, London was successfully challenged in the High Court by a 15-year-old on the grounds that it breached several articles in the European Convention on Human Rights. It would seem the proponents of the Redruth Curfew are confident of avoiding a similar challenge, perhaps because of the 'voluntary' spin. Yet reports from local Youth Parliament representatives in Redruth suggest the 'volunteering' was all on the police and town council's part, and Young People who didn't feel like joining in could expect to find themselves swiftly entangled with the Old Bill.

Thankfully, we've had no such curfews in North Somerset, though we have had our share of Dispersal (of human rights) Orders. The extensions of power the police can exercise through the Anti Social Behaviour Act may well be 'hailed as a success' by the Police, as the Redruth Curfew was, but for Liberty, it's just another nail in the coffin.

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