"SCROOGE" police chiefs are urging residents who want a silent night to "arrest" young carol singers.

Greenwich police say residents who feel intimidated by warbling youngsters should perform a citizen's arrest on them, because they are breaking the law.

But church and youth leaders have slammed the police for their lack of Christmas spirit.

Police released a statement to News Shopper, saying anyone carol singing on a doorstep without a charity box or a permit is "begging".

The statement also urges residents to "detain such children" and then call the police.

The Reverend Elaine Cranmer from St Luke's Vicarage, Westmount Road, Eltham, says the police's position is wrong.

She said: "It seems a bit over the top to me. It sounds like using a sledgehammer to crack open a nut.

"I'm aware some people feel intimidated but carol singing has become a traditional part of Christmas."

Marie Hunt, who runs the Deptford 2nd North Brownie and Guide group, says she has stopped taking her children carol singing because of the "petty rules".

She said: "It has gone too far now. The police are like Scrooge, they are just spoiling Christmas for the children.

"When I was younger we used to go out all the time on our own but nowadays, the kids can't do it. They don't know where they stand.

"It is political correctness gone mad."

The Greenwich police statement carries a blunt message to residents "Don't be intimdated and don't give them a penny".

It says: "Please remember that anyone (but usually children) who rings your doorbell or knocks and then starts singing carols, but have no official charity collection box or permit, are simply begging.

"Begging by children under 16 is an offence under Section 4 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. Anyone can detain such children and then you can call the police."

The law also states the parents or guardian of the singing child will be prosecuted.