Youth Crime - History

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  • Childhood has not always been a time in the life cycle to which much importance was attached
  • Abandonment of newborns was not uncommon in Europe - 18th century, 
  • Disposing of illegitimate children continued into the 19th century - cultural beliefs determined who should or should not survive
  • Boys were considered much more useful than girls - any child considered imperfect was likely to be a subject of premature death
  • Suggests why childhood received so little attention
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Emergance of childhood

  • In england and wales - age of criminal responsibility is 10
  • Between ages 10-18 young offenders dealt with in youth court
  • Adult magistrates court and crown court deal with offenders aged 18 and above
  • Aries (1973) "children were mixed with adults as soon as they were considered capable of doing without their mothers or nannies" - around the age of 7
  • Stone (1979) society was divided by status and not stratified by age
  • From 17th century onwards - childhood extended and separated from adulthood
  • As childhood developed as a separate category - idea developed - children were a responsibility, they required protection, children were creatures with the potential of good or evil - required discipline 
  • children were seen as moralists rather than "odd creatures"
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Hendrick (1997)

"Romantic child" and "Evangelical child"

  • children were in need of both protection and discipline
  • emergence of modern childhood - children were thought to require a moral and educational training before entering adult life
  • moralists placed responsibility on not only the church, but the family and school to raise children in a proper fashion
  • By the 18th century a vision of the perfect child was developed and projected - dependent, submissive to authority, obedient, modest and hard working
  • If children did not meet such standards - parents or schools blamed for failing to exercise appropriate measures of discipline 
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Family and delinquency

  • During middle ages - children common property - not necessarily by their own parents - by 17th century direct responsibility was placed on biological parents to provide and safe and disciplined upbringing
  • Only privileged classes cold afford the "luxury of childhood" - materialIstic goods, time and emotion (Jenks, 1996) - as a result, mid 19th century - delinquency 
  • children - viewed as vital source of family income - first decade of 19th century - 80% of workers in mills were children - cheap source of labour for factory owners - income for parents
  • not until 1989 did cruelty to children by parent become a specific criminal offence
  • 1814 - 5 children between ages 8 and 12 were hanged for petty theft of personal property
  • childhood - social construction in prticular historical context
  • by 20th century - "childhood" recognised as universal condition - made possible through economic and social conditions and also indetifiable age groups within the law/medical/educational policies
  • as concept of childhood expanded - became possible to define certain behaviour as new and unique social problems
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  • 1898 - `hooligan' made an abrupt entrance into the English language - rowdy August Bank Holiday celebration in London - hundreds of people appeared before the courts on charges of assault, drunkenness and assaults on police officers.
  • hooligans emerged as what we would nowadays call a `youth culture', having adopted a uniform dress code of peaked caps, neck scarves, bell-bottom trousers cut tight at the knee, heavy leather belts,`donkey fringe' 
  • moral panic created
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Industrial schools

  • Industrial schools aimed to remove children from bad influences, give them an education and teach them a trade
  • . The Industrial Schools Act was passed in 1857
  • The act gave magistrates the power to sentence homeless children between the ages of 7 and 14 years old to an Industrial School.

In 1861 a further act was passed and included children under the age of 14 found:

  • Begging or receiving charity
  • Wandering, homeless, without means of support, or in the company of reputed thieves
  • To have who had committed an offence punishable by imprisonment
  • To be beyond the control of their parents
  • Industrial Schools became the responsibility of the Committee of Education in 1870
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Historical amnesia and golden age

·         Pearson (1983) - "profound historical amnesia" - mythical and imaginary "golden age" where young people on the whole knew how to behave and youth crime did not represent a major social issue

·         "The repeated fear that youths are getting out of control- and harking back to a mythical golden age when children knew their place-tell us very little about the nature and extent of young offending. Instead they tell us more about adult concerns for morality, national security and unemployment"  (Muncie, 2009)


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Delinquent youth

  • 1830 - 9, 500 under 17s in prison
  • 1840 - 14,000 in prison  
  • 1840 - 30,000  children roaming streets of London
  • 1840 - Government Investigation – street children. Interviewed children in prison

Main points

  • Improper conduct of parents
  • Education
  • No employment
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2011 London Riots

  • 3,000 people were arrested August 6-10th, 2011
  • Protest. Born of specific concerns and anger around the shooting by the Metropolitan Police of Mark Duggan
  • Rioting. numbers of young people taking to the streets in some neighbourhoods in London, and UK Cities. 
  • Looting - Media attention,
  • Damage was done to property and to businesses
  • The rioters were predominantly young. About three-quarters of those in the  Reading the Riots Study LSE. were aged 24 or under, with just over a quarter of prosecutions involving juveniles under 18. 
  • Research (2011) found that in an overwhelming majority of the worst-affected areas, youth unemployment and child poverty were significantly higher than the national average while education attainment was significantly lower.
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What makes a child offend?

Youth Justice Board (2000) 

many reasons why a child may turn to crime, but the most common ones are:

  • lack of education and playing truant
  • poor family relationships
  • peer pressure (having friends who commit crime)
  • having family members who commit crime
  • drug and alcohol abuse
  • mental health issues, such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
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Modern juvenile justice system

  • Modern juvenile justice system emerged in roughly the same period as adolescence and delinquency
  •  Many social reformers in the 19th century who campaigned to protect children from danger and exploitation demanded that they should be removed from the "adult" prison system and placed in privately managed, state-funded institutions 
  • Youthful Offenders Act 1854 provided the basis for reformations for the "dangerous classes"
  • Children Act 1908 barred under 14s from prisons and restricted the imprisonment of 14-15 year olds
  • The Children and Young Persons Act 1969 - aimed at raising  the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.
  •  was never enacted, and soon after the Act was passed the Government lost power to the Conservatives, who considered it unnecessary to change the age of criminal responsibility at that time - IT S STILL 10yrs today
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