Tuesday, 18 November 2008

New survey on children is madness

This week, the First Minister Rhodri Morgan has offered some welcome criticism of Gordon Brown's 'Britishness' agenda. The Western Mail reported that Rhodri Morgan opposes the "criminalisation of the nation’s youth and a “fortress-like” attitude to asylum seekers". In my criminal justice report which I launched earlier this year, I referenced some of the First Minister's previous comments on youth justice which have been far more progressive than what we can expect from New Labour. I also quoted Rod Morgan (no relation to Rhodri!), who is a former head of the Youth Justice Board. Professor Morgan holds the view that the policies of the UK government criminalise children to a greater extent than any other country in Europe.

Both Rod and Rhodri are right, and a survey highlighted by the BBC this week seems to show that the UK government's victimisation of children is having a negative effect on general attitudes. The YouGov poll interviewed 2,021 UK adults, and over half believed that children are feral, behave like animals and present a danger to adults. So this is the perception. The facts are that most crime in the UK is caused by adults and the majority of victims of anti-social behaviour are children.

I fully support Barnardo's UK-wide advertising campaign which aims to highlight and challenge these negative perceptions of children. Children do not deserve to be scapegoated and blamed for all of society's problems. Finland is a country not that much bigger than Wales, but it is a country which treats its children and young people consistently better than we do, and perceptions are different as a result. Finland's youth crime rate that is almost non-existent. Isn't that the kind of system we should be aiming for?


Chris Cope said...

Of course 19 people have died in Finnish school shootings in the last year, so perhaps it's not the best place to aspire to be like.

And you can't really blame people for their perceptions. Ride a train or bus, or take a stroll through many parts of your own constituency and you will encounter large numbers of young people seemingly wearing the uniforms of delinquency and eager to set themselves out as problematic.

Determining the root causes of this behaviour and alleviating the issue is all well and good, but none of that really matters when you're confronted with eight striped-shirted kids who are blasted on cider and vandalising everything within reach (you can see this around Ninian Park pretty much any time CCFC plays at home).

plaidcasnewydd said...

I haven't been round Ninian park so I can't comment on that specifically- but I imagine that this is a structural problem with policing more than anything- CCFC will have paid for extra policing at the ground- but that does not mean the local communities that surround the ground will see any benefit- and poorer communities in particular are left without adequate policing generally. This is a much bigger subject than can be tackled in blog alone however...

Most young people are not criminals and neither should they be treated as such just because they often have nothing more rewarding to do in their communities other than hang around. there are clearly problems but they should be treated aside from tabloid inspired hysteria. young people may wear a particular fashion (so called 'uniform of delinquency') and the kids on the council estate in Newport where I live (and walk around and use public transport) do sometimes exhibit adolescent truculence- but they are FAR from "feral animals". Blaming society's ills on absence of respect, and the flaws of the youth, is too simplistic, but a well documented reactionary tactic. No-one is saying that there are not problems- but that the tabloids and so forth offer a trite diagnosis.

Also- if you 'alleviate the issue' instances of the behaviour you describe diminish. Cause and effect...