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Oxford University Press - Online Resource Centres

Hale et al: Criminology 3e

Chapter 17: Chapter synopses

This chapter looks at the development of the youth justice system. It is noted that whilst young offenders have a separate system of justice there are many similarities that can be drawn with adult offenders. One has to be careful in defining "young" as there are different ages which cause these different systems to be applied. Since the abolition of Doli Incapax in the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act the age of criminal culpability in England and Wales is ten. However Young Offender Institutions cater for those up to age 21. Indeed one study even defined young as 30. Two models of dealing with youth crime have emerged. The 'welfare model' sees offending as a symptom of psychological or social deprivation. The response rests with providing expert-led treatment in order to meet the child's needs and so reduce offending. This was widely used as the basis for youth justice policies in the 1960s. The 'justice model', rather than focusing on deprivation and needs, places the offence at the centre, regarding it as an act of will, with the offender to be punished in line with the seriousness of the crime. This found favour subsequent to the 1960s but was gradually moved away from by the Conservative governments of the 1980s who despite their apparent tough stance on crime were found to be sending fewer offenders to prison. After a series of high profile youth crimes including the killing of James Bulger the justice model was restored with greater emphasis on penal sanctions for young offenders. Today New Labour proposes to be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" and its recent measures have included:

  • The removal of doli incapax
  • Custody and tough community sentences
  • Strengthening warning systems
  • Reparation and restorative justice
  • Anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs)
  • Curfews
  • Child safety orders
  • Parental involvement
  • Establishing a national Youth Justice Board and local Youth Offending Teams

Finally, a review of contemporary youth justice policy and debate regarding its future direction is provided.