Jospin targets teachers' attackers;Briefing;International

5th February 1999 at 00:00

Violence against teachers will be punished by tougher penalties under a government crackdown on juvenile delinquency.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin announced that the courts would be ordered to impose stiffer sentences on those found guilty of crimes against teachers after last week's meeting of the country's Council of Interior Security.

Mr Jospin recently identified law and order as his government's chief priority after fighting unemployment, acknowledging growing public anxiety over crimes, particularly those crimes committed by young people.

The issue divided the government with the minister of the interior, Jean-Pierre Chev nement, calling for a hard-line approach including more and harsher detention especially for under-16s and repeat offenders.

He also suggested removing family allowances from the parents of persistent offenders.

His ideas and some of the language he used - such as referring to young offenders as "sauvageons", which can be translated as "little savages" - offended other ministers, notably the justice minister Elisabeth Guigou.

She favours a softer approach involving education and psychological and social counselling.

The measures strike a compromise between the two camps. As well as the stiffer penalties for attacks on teachers, there will be 7,000 extra police for areas with high youth crime, more police stations and courts and 50 extra remand centres, though these will have primarily an educational and not a penal role.

Extra legal staff will be recruited to deal with young offenders.

Public concern has grown in recent months at mounting youth violence particularly in the poor suburbs surrounding such cities as Paris, Toulouse and Strasbourg. After three years of decline, crime started rising last year, especially among the young.

Numerous teacher protests in demand of action include demonstrations and stoppages. There has been a strike since mid-December at a school in the disadvantaged Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.

Two weeks ago, schools minister Segol ne Royal was mobbed by teachers who climbed on to the bonnet of her car when she visited a lower secondary school in an educational priority zone.

She had gone to support the school's principal who had been shot at by pistol-wielding youths.

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