A brief history of curfews

Chris Bunting

Curfew, from the old French Cuevrefeu, "a covering of the fire", describing a regulation requiring fires to be extinguished.

* 872: Alfred the Great (right) introduces a curfew in Oxford to cut fire risks.

* 1068: the idea really comes of age when William the Conqueror decrees a national curfew to reduce both fire risks and the possibility of late-night revolts. Even now, many church bells still ring its 9pm deadline.

* 1068 onwards: the concept loses its fire-fighting link but becomes popular among the administrators of Jewish ghettoes in central Europe, slave-owners in the southern US and coup leaders worldwide.

* 1990: 93 of the 200 largest US cities introduce curfews for their teenagers. Another 53 of these cities enacted curfew legislation between 1990-95.

1996: President Bill Clinton announces that he is supporting curfews for teenagers. He recommends that weekday curfews should start at 9pm.

* 1997: Britain first teenagers' curfew is introduced on estates in Hamilton, Scotland.

* 1998: Section 14 of the Crime and Disorder Act allows local authorities in England and Wales to ban children aged 10 and under from being in a specified place during specified hours. But by 2001, no local authority has applied to the new power.

* 1999: 41 per cent of all offenders are aged 10 to18; 15 per cent are aged 12 to 14; 22 per cent are aged 15 to 17.

* 2001: The Criminal Justice and Police Bill proposes extending the curfew to under-16s. The process by which local authorities apply to impose curfews is to be simplified.

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Chris Bunting

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