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?