In the wake of the most devastating civil disturbances to hit Great Britain in decade, the Home Secretary Theresa May has told police chiefs in England and Wales that she will support their use of tougher measures in dealing with rioters, and may provide them with new powers to impose curfews on city streets.

She added that while officers have been criticized by civil libertarian as being “too tough” she would back their increased powers as long as they act "within reason and the law".

May praised the courage of front-line police officers during the riots and sympathized with the hopeless position they are placed in when dealing with extraordinary civil disturbances.

"As long as you act within reason and the law, I will never damn you if you do," she told an audience of police chiefs.

She also said that "strong, enforceable powers" will be required to help police cope with criminality, gangs and disorder.

"It's clear to me that as long as we tolerate the kind of anti-social behavior 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," May added.

"So we will make sure the police have the powers they need. But we also need to be clear that when they use them, and when they deliver the kind of robust policing that worked this week, they have the support of the politicians and the public."

On the flipside, some commentators have accused the police of being too lenient and passive with the rioters and looters who caused such damage in London and other major British cities – a claim that the Acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Tim Godwin.

"I don't believe for one second that the men and women of the Met were timid, which is an accusation that's been leveled at us which I have refuted but more important than that the vast majority of the people that make up this city, the Londoners, refute that," he told a Commons home affairs committee.

Meanwhile, government ministers will consider giving the right to police and local authorities the right to impose "general curfews" on specific areas in England and Wales.

However, some libertarians and other are concerned with the prospect of random curfews.

The director of Big Brother Watch Daniel Hamilton told media: "The very principle of imposing blanket curfews on the British public runs contrary to any concept of a liberal and democratic values."