Theresa May
© Reuters
Theresa May delivered a speech on police reform in central London
Police could be given new powers to impose curfews to clear streets of rioters, home secretary Theresa May has said.

Changes to the law were being discussed by the Home Office to give officers extra capability to handle disturbances, she revealed.

Current legislation does not permit a general curfew to be imposed in a particular area.

While curfew conditions could be placed on some offenders as part of their criminal sentence, bail conditions or Asbo, there were only limited powers to impose them on people under the age of 16, Mrs May said.

'In the fast-moving situation we've seen over the past week, I think we need to make sure the police have all the powers available to be able to use as and when they are necessary,' she added.

'It's clear to me that, as long as we tolerate the kind of anti-social behaviour that takes place every day up and down the country, we will continue to see high levels of crime, a lack of respect for private property and a contempt for community life.'

She said there also needed to be more flexibility in dispersal orders, which allow police to move people on in agreed areas.

Isabella Sankey, of civil rights group Liberty, argued existing powers were sufficient, adding: 'It wasn't a lack of police powers that was the problem. As the home secretary said, it was an increase in officer numbers that brought the situation under control.'