Essay on Youth Justice System in the UK
Number of words: 3536
The youth justice system must take into account the needs of the young people in society in a manner that supports good deeds. The essence of the youth justice system is to take the young in society into account for their unlawful actions (Talbot, 2010). It is important to highlight that children in courts cannot be handled as adults, especially in countries such as Wales and England. It is important to highlight key strengths and weaknesses of the youth justice system in the United Kingdom to ascertain important facts that affect delivery of justice for the youth. The trial and sentencing of children and young people in society involves a number of fundamental aspects that should be considered (Muncie, 2011). Crucial factors that are considered in a youth criminal justice system include the age of criminal responsibility, special provisions, problems that the system faces, and importantly, recommendations that can help improve on the same. Criminological research criticizes the criminal justice system in the United Kingdome for focusing on punishing youth misdeeds instead of helping them meet their needs in society (Taylor, 2016). Indeed the system has failed to do its mandate in helping the youth meet their needs and instead has focused on punishing their misdeeds (Soppitt and Irving, 2014). An examination on existing literature on the youth criminal justice system in the UK will help gain a deeper understanding on the discussion topic.
Strengths of the Justice Youth System in the UK
The youth criminal justice system in the United Kingdom has various strengths that make it better placed to handle matters to do with children. It is important for the essay to explore various aspects that are important in the system and ascertain how supportive it has been to the youth in promoting justice in the UK (Goldson, 2010). The first notable strength of the system is the manner that the youth are tried in the United Kingdom. It is vital to highlight that youth cases are handled by youth court, which is staffed by a magistrate or a district judge. One advantage with youth courts is that they always hold hearings in private in a way that can protect the privacy of a child (Talbot, 2010). Children and other young people are entitled to human rights such as privacy hence it is the role of the court to be a custodian on the same. Children can only be tried in a magistrate’s court if the second or other offenders are adults. In most cases, youth courts hold cases for the young people in private as a way of protecting privacy of the offender (Haines et al., 2013). In essence, the fact that the youth criminal system in the United Kingdom guarantees privacy for the youth is a strength that makes it better placed to handle children matters.
The second strength that can be associated with the youth criminal justice system in the United Kingdom is the non-custodial disposals that are in place. When a young person commits a crime in public or is reported, they can be dealt with outside the court system by the police or local authorities (Muncie, 2011). It is vital to note that adults in magistrate’s courts do not have such options as they are classified as grownups. The non-custodial disposal for the youth justice system in the United Kingdom gives the youth an opportunity to have their cases or issues solved outside courtrooms (Davis, 2010). The essence of providing the option for the youth and children is to ensure that they do not get sucked up in the criminal justice system when something can be done to change the situation. The United Kingdom is one of the countries that have an elaborate youth justice system that considers the needs of the youth and the young before convicting them of various offences through non-custodial disposals (Talbot, 2010). Rigid systems in the world contribute towards increased numbers of the youth convicted over matters that could otherwise be resolved outside court (Mendes and Baidawi, 2012). In essence, the presence of non-custodial disposals within the youth criminal justice system in the United Kingdom is a strength that has helped meet the needs of many youths.
It is vital for the essay to examine some of the non-custodial disposals that the youth justice system in the United Kingdom. For instance, the system offers pre-court measures that can help handle issues of the youth and support them to support committing crime (Goldson, 2010). The first option for pre-court measures that is taken in the UK is reprimanding the offender. The UK youth justice system sometimes allows offenders to be reprimanded as a strategy to avoid convicting high numbers of the youth (Edwards, 2017). The second option that the criminal youth justice system in the United Kingdom offers as a non-custodial disposal is last warning. Children and youth offenders are warned from taking part in crime for they shall face the law. The youth sometimes engage in anti-social behavior measures that can risk their lives and send them to prison (Shaw, 2014). Examples of non-custodial disposals that are in place to cub the same include Acceptable Behavior Contract (ABC), Anti-Social Behavior Order (ASBO), and the Individual Support Order (ISO). The strategies are incorporated in the youth criminal justice system in the United Kingdom as a way of promoting youth compliance with set rules and regulations as it regards to behavior. Another non-custodial disposal within the United Kingdom youth criminal system include child curfew (Haines et al., 2013). Imposing children curfew in some regions or places in the United Kingdom can help reduce the occurrence of crime as caused by the youth. The non-custodial disposals have proved to be a pillar towards reducing crime as caused by children and the young.
Another imminent strength of the youth criminal justice system in the United Kingdom is the Youth Justice Board (YJB), which forms part of the commissioning board in the country. YJB is a non-departmental public body set up by the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998 in section 41 (McAra and McVie, 2010). The purpose of the body is to assess and check the functioning and operations of the youth courts that are in place. It monitors the operation of youth justice system and how it delivers its services to the youth. The Joint Youth Justice Unit is part of the YJB body that operates to ensure that the system operates in favor of reduced crime among the youth. It is important to note that the YJB recommends community supervision as a strategy that can help reduce crime among the youth in the United Kingdom (Arnull, 2014). The Youth Offending Teams that are formed under community supervision join hands with local authorities and other stakeholders in a bid to find solutions to matters on youth crime. The Crime and Disorder Act of 1998 requires that local authority, police and other stakeholders to form a youth offending team or teams. The work of the teams is to assess what the youth have done and give them necessary guidance that can help increase compliance with the law (Creaney and Smith, 2014). The criminal justice system in the United Kingdom is characterized by commissioning bodies that have helped ensure that the youth comply with the law and avoid crime, which forms a major strength for the youth justice system.
Safer school partnership is another strength that attributes to the youth justice system in the United Kingdom. Institutions that are part of the partnership must have a police officer within the school who oversees operations regarding crime and compliance with the law (Creaney and Smith, 2014). The school-based officer should team up with staff and other local authorities to help young children behave in a manner that reduces any crime. For instance, the SSP programs in the UK help reduce victimization, criminality and anti-social behavior within the school and its community. Equally, it is the duty of the program to work with schools on whole-school approaches to behavior and discipline (Muncie, 2011). In essence, the SSP program is a strategy that has helped reduce crime by involving local stakeholders and police officers within institutions. The YJB has been steadfast in supporting the SSP program in a manner that promotes good behavior for learners. It is also the duty of the YJB to ensure a safer learning environment for all children and the young in the United Kingdom (Haines et al., 2013). Supporting young children and the vulnerable in society during the period of transition such as the move from primary to secondary is an important aspect (Drakeford and Gregory, 2010). The youth justice system in the United Kingdom is efficient and has helped control the high rates of crime among young people in a significant manner.
Weaknesses of the Justice Youth System in the UK
It is important for the essay to explore weaknesses of the youth justice system in the United Kingdom in a bid to establish its suitability in reducing crime among the youth. The first weakness that can be noted is the age of criminal responsibility (Blakeman, 2011). The United Kingdom youth justice system has a legislation that outlines that no person or child under the age of ten years should be tried in a court of law. Ideally, the age set locks out every child under the age of 10 from getting charged in a court of law (Watkins and Johnson, 2010). The criminal age responsibility set is a weakness for the system as a 10 year old child might not differentiate between right and wrong. It is through one’s discretion that he/she can decide to make a mistake or breach the law (Bateman, 2014). Young children might not have the ability to make decisions as to what mistakes they commit and in what way the same breach the law. The fact that the age of criminal responsibility is 10 in the United Kingdom has led to conviction of many young people who could otherwise be exempted by the age factor (Taylor, 2016). It is important that the youth justice system in the United Kingdom considers changing the age of criminal responsibility in a manner that reduces conviction of young people. The age of criminal responsibility in the United Kingdom’s youth justice system is part of the weaknesses that have led to increased conviction of the youth.
The second weakness of the youth criminal justice system in the United Kingdom is the commissioning frameworks that are in place. The most appropriate way to help the youth is talk to them to avoid crime and purpose to follow the law at all times (Creaney and Smith, 2014). However, the YJB might not be effective in selecting the right officers and team members to handle children crime matters and anti-social behavior. It is not a must for members of the teams to practice the right ethical conduct in favor of juveniles. Some of the members in the boards might be selective and biased, which is detrimental to efforts of administering justice appropriately (Shaw, 2014). As such, their efficiency depends on the decision making skills and abilities of the youth offending teams in place. Failure to have the right members in the teams might be detrimental to efforts of having a sustainable and reliable youth justice system within the United Kingdom. One of the best ways of reducing crime is preventing it from happening by sensitizing the youth on the need to avoid crime and anti-social behavior (Blakeman, 2011). However, team members play a crucial role in determining the efficiency and effectiveness of sensitization programs in place. In essence, the commissioning frameworks might be constituted in a manner that shows a weakness in the handling of crime and anti-social behavior for the youth.
Third, the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom at some point convicts the youth for mistakes that could have been handled in a different manner. Jailing a child should be utilized as a last resort towards handling of crime matters and anti-social behavior for the youth (Arthur, 2010). It is important to highlight that there are many children who have been sentenced to prison for mistakes that could have been avoided. Since 1990 to 2004, the numbers of youth convicted have risen by almost 60%, which exposes the weaknesses in the strategies that are applied in the youth criminal justice system in the United Kingdom (Bateman, 2014). Much needs to be done to ensure that the high numbers of conviction have been reduced, especially for children within the UK. It is the right of every child to enjoy all human privileges including privacy, safety and expression (Souhami, 2015). The YJB should work to ensure that minimal numbers of children are convicted by employing YOTs that can promote and change the situation. Children who have various health and physical conditions find it difficult to operate in jail and the YJB should find alternatives towards the same (Blakeman, 2011). In essence, the fact that many children are being sentenced into prison is a weakness as contributed by the commissioning frameworks that have been put in place in the past.
Accommodation for children and the youth within the United Kingdom’s youth criminal justice system is another weakness that should be handled. Several reports have been raised in the past regarding accommodation and other important aspects in prison (Arthur, 2010). Children are entitled to each right and it is the duty of the criminal justice system to guarantee them safety and accommodation. Poor accommodation facilities in juvenile prisons have proved to be a challenge that should not be overlooked within the system. The high numbers of youth being convicted has resulted in overcrowding of the facilities in a manner that disadvantages the wellbeing of the convicted youth (Stephenson, Giller and Brown, 2010). Overcrowding can lead to serious problems in custody including deterioration of accommodation facilities. Equally, overcrowding has led to increased social problems such as shortage of supplies for children who have been convicted (Haines et al., 2013). The United Kingdom youth justice system should ensure that overcrowding is reduced in various child prisons in a bid to improve living conditions. Poor living conditions are as a result of increased conviction by the youth criminal justice system in the United Kingdom.
Critical Analysis of the Youth Justice System in the UK
The essay should conduct a critical analysis on the youth justice system in the United Kingdom and ascertain whether it indeed focuses on punishing the youth’s misdeeds instead of supporting them to stay away from crime and any anti-social behavior (Arthur, 2010). The first aspect that is important to note is the use of various practices such strip-searching for kids within the United Kingdom’s youth criminal justice system. Everyone who enters jail is subject to strip-searching, a factor that violates the privacy of an individual to a large extent. Children should not be subjected to approaches of public disrobing within the youth justice system in the United Kingdom (Stephenson, Giller and Brown, 2010). Equally, the system subjects children to pain compliance techniques that amount to torture on a child. The role of the system is to ensure that each child is well protected in custody and not to subject them to torture. In essence, the system has been criticized for not handling important issues such as the use of the listed practices in handling children who have committed crime (Blakeman, 2011). Equally, YJB has failed to do the right practices that can see the number of children convicted reduce in the last few years. There is an urgent need to focus on implementing policies that can see such practices stripped off the system to make it better supportive to youths in the United Kingdom.
According to a report by UNICEF across the nations that constitute the UK, the youth judicial system has failed its duty to protect and uphold human rights, especially keeping them safe and protecting them from harm (Unicef UK, 2021). A major concern over the numbers of children that end up in jail is that majority of them come from BAME backgrounds. The fact that a majority of the children are from BAME backgrounds is indicative of social injustice that exists in the system within the United Kingdom. A youth justice system that uphold and protect human rights of every child must uphold fairness and integrity. For instance, there are notable unsatisfactory conditions within its youth detention system (Blakeman, 2011). In the year ending March 2019, the number of black children in England and Wales to be arrested was four times that of white children. There is a need to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years of age to reduce the number of children that are arrested.
Stopping the use of particular practices for the youth such as solitary confinement, tasers and spit-hoods would be helpful in improving the UK’s youth justice system to a large extent. The system has been criticized for ineptness in protecting human rights and ensuring safety (Unicef UK, 2021). Much can be done to change the situation if policies are put in place to protect the right of children. Sensitizing the youth within the United Kingdom to stay away from crime is another important aspect that should be considered (Blakeman, 2011). Some children do not know what should be avoided and might find themselves on the wrong side of the law. The UK judicial system should change strategies and ensure that it convicts without discrimination, while at the same time reducing the number of children that are convicted.
To sum it up, the UK judicial system has been criticized for focusing on punishing the youths’ misdeeds instead of supporting them and advising them to stay away from crime. The essay has explored existing literature on the UK’s system and ascertained that indeed the system has failed to execute its mandate. For instance, some practices within the system such as segregation and strip-searching for kids prove to violate the privacy of children and should be avoided. Equally, discrimination in the system has led to increased number children from BAME backgrounds. Such aspects within the youth justice system have attracted criticism and there is a need for the government to do something to avert the problem. Policies should be put in place to improve the system and promote operations within the United Kingdom.
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