Government policies allowing curfews on primary pupils have been attacked by children's organisations as contrary to European law.
From September the Home Secretary will have the power to approve local authority requests for curfews after 9pm, for up to 90 days. Under-10s could be picked up by police and taken home or into police "protection".
Legal advice to British children's charities said curfews would breach the European Convention on Human Rights.
The charities - the National Children's Bureau, Barnardo's, the Children's Society, NSPCC and Save the Children - said: "The curfew is likely to demonise children and to suggest to them that they are disliked and dangerous; may waste police time and may help conceal instances of child abuse; it is likely to feed fears and divisions in the community..." UNICEF, the United Nations' children's fund, accused the Home Office of a "regressive step", abusing the spirit of its Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Britain is a signatory.
Patrick McCormick, UNICEF's European spokesperson, said: "This legislation is a regressive step which . . . just puts children in jail . . . (It) is a breach of parents' rights and of the European convention. This is heavy-handed and unnecessary. " A Home Office spokeswoman referred to a statement made by minister Alun Michael. He said: "I am satisfied the proposals for local child curfew schemes as set out in the Crime and Disorder Bill are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. "