Parents in a Surrey town were left fuming after the police told them it was a 'crime' for their children to play in the street.
Officers sent fliers to residents in Southville Road, Thames Ditton, saying it was against the law for their youngsters to use footballs or skateboards on the road.
The leaflet stated that parents should be aware of their 'legal and social responsibilities' in terms of their children playing games in the road, warning: 'Ignore the law and you may be liable to prosecution.
"Playing football or other sports in the street is a CRIMINAL OFFENCE, particularly if someone is affected, such as being involved in an accident, or where the activity has caused them annoyance, alarm or distress," it read.
Outraged mums and dads branded the letter 'completely disproportionate' and said that the children in the street were all mainly under 11 and played out while their parents watched.
Mum-of-two Catriona Riddell told the Daily Telegraph a few children skateboarded and roller skated on the road as it was the only local hard surface. She said about 10-15 youngsters played out, mainly on Sunday afternoon and after school until about 6pm. That also led to their parents coming out and chatting as they watched the children play, resulting in a 'really lovely atmosphere' and giving the children 'a sense of freedom'.
"When we received the leaflet, I think there was just sheer disappointment. It was a completely disproportionate reaction to a bunch of kids out playing," Mrs Riddell, 36, said.
After children as young as six reportedly became too scared to go out in case they were arrested, the residents received an apology from the police, with officers also organising a road safety workshop for the kids.
Inspector David Hollingworth from Surrey Police said the intention had been to raise awareness of the dangers of playing in the road.
"It correctly identified that playing games such as football on the highway may be unlawful in some circumstances; however this would not in any way be criminal behaviour," he wrote to the families. "Please accept my apologies for the way in which the leaflet put this message across and for any offence it may have caused."
A Surrey Police spokeswoman said the original letter had been 'worded incorrectly'.
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