In this policy file, I will discuss and critically analyse the policy response to youth violence. Before I discuss about youth violence and the legal framework governing the problem, I will first give a definition of youth violence and an overview of the history of youth violence. Throughout my policy file, I will mainly focus on the extent of knife crime and how government policies have been introduced to prevent knife crime.
John Muncie and David Wilson – Student Handbook of Criminal Justice and Criminology – Chapter 15, Youth crime and youth justice – London : Cavendish, 2004.
According to both Muncie and Wilson, youth crime is a deep concern in our society today. They also state that in late modernity youth violence has attracted a vast amount of attention by the politicians, the pubic and the media. Geoffrey argues that young offenders emerged during the beginning of the industrial revolution, which then continued throughout the 19th century. Geoffrey states that terms such as ‘yob’ and ‘hooligan’ derived from the late 19th century; these terms were used to describe young people who were involved in gang violence (Muncie and Wilson, 2004).
Furthermore, young people’s involvement in youth violence has created a moral panic. Stan Cohen mentions that ‘socities appear to be subject, every now and then, to periods of moral panic when a condition emerges to be defined as a threat to societal values and interests’ (Cohen, in Muncie and Wilson, 2004, 222)
Self report studies suggest that young people offending is now seen as a common norm, whereby majority of young people view offending as a normal thing to do whist growing up (Graham and Bowling, in Muncie and Wilson). In a recent study carried out by Claire, she reported that 60 percent of boys reported to have committed a crime.
However, official statistics show that youth crime is in decline, the Home Office reported that between 1992 and 2001, the number of 10-17 year olds convicted for offence fell by 21 percent (Home office, in Muncie and Wilson, 2004). According to official statistics, in 2001, 66 percent of recorded youth crime was for theft, fraud and handling stolen goods (Muncie and Wilson, 2004). It is also evident that most youth crime is carried out in poor communities (Simmons, in Muncie and Wilson, 2004).
Youth violence is mainly carried out by young males, boys tend to commit more serious offences compared to girls.
Youth justice systems may vary according to which country a person lives’ in, there are significant differences in the age at which a youth is deemed to be responsible for his/her criminal act. In the U.K, the age at which a child is seen to be responsible for their criminal action is set at 10 years old (Muncie and Wilson, 2004). According to Nacro, in 1992, 100 children under the age of 15 were sentenced to jail, whereas in 2001 there was an increase of 800 percent of children going to jail (NACRO, In Muncie and Wilson, 2004). According to official statistics, more young people are being sentenced to jail in England and Wales compared to any other country in the European Union.
Understanding public attitudes to criminal justice – Julian V. Roberts and Mike J. Hough. Recent reforms in juvenile, Maidenhead : Open University Press, 2005.
According to Roberts and Hough, there are high levels of public concern about youth violence in today’s society. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998, set up a youth justice board and a system of youth offending teams which consists of police officers, probation officers and social workers, their main goal is to use their experience and hence respond to young offenders. New legislations and such as curfew orders, electronic tagging and surveillance programs have been introduced to prevent youth crime since the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act (Roberts and Hough, 2005).
According to statistics youth violence has been stable and declining since 2003; however a group of respondents argued that youth violence is on the increase compared to 2003. Majority of the respondents cited the media as their main source of information. A MORI survey which was carried out in 2001 asked the public what methods can be used in order to reduce crime in Britain. Majority of the respondents replied by stating that better parenting and more discipline in school is needed. In 1998, the British Crime Survey carried out a survey to identify the best ways of dealing with young offenders, majority of respondents stated that the best solution would be to increase parental responsibilities.
Crime prevention – Adam Sutton et al Crime prevention : principles, perspectives and practices / Adam Sutton, Adrian Cherney and Rob White. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Youth gangs and social conflict
According to some young people to be part of gang can lead them to safety, whereas if they were not involved in a gang it could lead them to danger (Sutton et al, 2008). Young people need to be supervised, by providing young people with free leisure activities and after school clubs may prevent them from being involved in youth crime. Being involved in a gang, gives young people a sense of belonging, and identity (Sutton et al, 2008).
The community needs to provide more for its young people; they need to give young people more opportunities which cater their needs. More opportunities should be given to young people whereby they can engage in activities which suit their interest and needs (Sutton et al, 2008).
Youth and crime – John Muncie, London : SAGE, 2009. 3rd ed. Youth Justice strategies 2: Prevention and Punishment
In the 21st century, the youth justice is designed to punish the offender as well as taking their welfare into consideration. The youth justice system has many roles, however they mainly focus on two key aspects, firstly how to prevent crime and secondly how to punish those who offend (Muncie, 2009).
Ron Clarke, a former researcher at the UK’s Home Office and Ray Jeffery an American criminologist first promoted the idea of situational and social crime prevention to be introduced. Whereby, crime rates will decline through environmental designs, such as having more street lights and more CCTV cameras, thus making it more difficult for crime to occur. Hence, it is better to tackle the causes of crime rather than dealing with the consequences afterwards, (Matthews and Young in Muncie, 2009).
There are many developments in youth justice legislation and policy in England and Wales such as the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, giving out anti social behavior orders and child safety orders. The 2000 youth inclusion programme which works with targeted 13-16 year olds most at risk of offending and being excluded from school. The 2005 clean neighborhood and environmental act, which issues a fixed penalty for minor environmental disorders to children over the age of 10 years old and above.
The 2008 youth crime action plan was introduced to provide intensive parenting support and enforce tougher punishments to those who offend. There are many more polices and legislations which have been introduced to prevent youth crime, however the big question is how effective are the polices and legislations in preventing youth crime.
In 2002, it was claimed that there were around 30.000 gang members in England and Wales, (Observer in Muncie, 2009). The incidents of the murder of Rhys Jones and James Bulger may have caused a moral panic.
Official statistics show that the number of people reported of carrying knife between 1997 and 2006 rose from 482 to 1265. However, a survey conducted by the Metropolitan police in 2007, state that knife crime dropped by 15.7 percent over the previous two years (Muncie, 2009).
Crime prevention and community safety: new directions / edited by Gordon Hughes, Eugene McLaughlin, John Muncie. London : SAGE, in association with the Open University, 2002.
A new deal for youth’s early interventions
Muncie argues that certain risk factors need to be dealt with first such as poor parenting, truancy and lack of employment in order to reduce youth crime (Muncie in Hughes et al, 2002).
The primary aim of the youth justice system act is to ensure that crime is prevented by young people. In January 2003, Tony Blair stated that we must be tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime, since then new labour focused its policies on the causes of crime. The key causes of crime were, lack of employment, poor parenting, lack of facilities for young people and many more (Muncie, in Hughes 2002).
According to a longitudinal study on ‘delinquent families’ six variables were mentioned as predictors of future criminality, such as poor parenting, family conflicts and socio economic background. According to Farrington and West who conducted the study, they argue that children who were brought up in poor families are more likely to commit crime as they are less able to achieve their goals legally, such as driving without insurance (Farrington in Hughes, 2002).
Crime prevention and community. Crime prevention and community safety : politics, policies, and practices / Adam Crawford. Harlow : Longman, 1998.#
Home office statistics estimated that young people under the age of 21 are responsible for nearly half of all crime committed (Home office, in Crawford, 1998). According to Crawford, locking up young people would lead them to further pursue a career in criminal activity, it will reduce their chances of doing something constructive (Crawford, 1998). Many young people engage in criminal activities, however only a small minority of them go onto to become criminals in the future (Farrington, in Crawford, 1998).
Criminologists have identified certain risk factors such as family poverty, lone parenting, poor education achievements, employment opportunities and many more which lead to criminal activities. If the above risk factors can be dealt with then criminologists argue that youth violence will be in decline. According to Graham and Bowling the following preventive intervention need to be taken into consideration in order to reduce youth violence. There are strengthening families and supporting good parenting, strengthening and improving parental supervision, strengthening school s, reducing truancy, reducing school exclusions and family school partnerships (Graham and Bowling, in Crawford, 1998). Two main factors which are missing from Graham and Bowling protective factors are leisure and employment opportunities. Both these elements provide personal fulfillment and hence can reduce youth violence (Crawford, 1998).
The new politics of crime and punishment – The new politics of crime and punishment / edited by Roger Matthews, Jock Young. Cullompton : Willan, 2003.
Youth justice in England and Wales
Youth violence has become a major political issue in the U.K for the past 20 years, (Garland and Pitts, in Matthews and Young, 2003). Many Politian’s argue that if young people are prepared to do the crime they should also do the time i.e in jail (Simon, in Matthews and Young, 2003).
Article 3.1 of the UN convention on the rights of the child states that ‘in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration’ (Matthews and Young, 2003,72).
The youth justice system in England and Wales started its origin in the 19th century. In the final decades of the 19th century there were public and media concerns in the way children were exposed and brutally treated in adult jails. The first juvenile court was established in Chicago in 1899, around 1910 more juvenile courts were established in most western European countries. The Children Act 1908 and the Prevention of Crime Act 1908 established juvenile courts.
Jack Straw described the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 ‘as the most radical shake up of youth justice in 30 years (Matthews and Young, 2003, 88).
Understanding violence – Elizabeth Kandel Englander. [Mahwah, N.J. ; London] : Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007. 3rd ed.
According to Englander, youth violence is on the decrease; however despite this gang violence is still a major issue and has been for the past 50 years (Englander, 2007).
The penal system : an introduction / Michael Cavadino and James Dignan. London : SAGE, 2002. 3rd ed. Young offenders: Systems Management or System Disaster
Criminal activity caused by young people has always been a major cause of public concern (Cavadino and Dignan, 2002). In 1999, 41 percent of people who were found guilty for an offence were young people under the age of 21. Official statistics show that the peak age for committing an offence among young people was 18 years old for boys and 15 for girls; however most of these crimes were not serious (Cavadino and Dignan, 2002).
According to Cavadino and Dignan, youth violence is decreasing; the number of people under 21 who were found guilty for committing an offence in 1999 was down by 33 percent compared to 1985.
In May 2000, 17 percent of the prison population was young people.
By law in the U.K children under the age of ten cannot be prosecuted for offences. The youth justice system deals with offenders between the ages of 10 to18 years old.
Youth court magistrates consists of people who have experience and interest in working with young people, the courts proceedings are not open to the public (Cavadino and Dignan, 2002).
Youth crime and justice – Barry Goldson and John Muncie Youth crime and justice : critical issues / edited by Barry Goldson and John Muncie. London : SAGE, 2006.
Histories of youth crime and justice
In the early stages of the industrial revolution, many changes accord such as the growth in population, increase levels of poverty, whereby crime was always a feature. Today’s youth are said to be posing more threat to social order than any other time. It was during the early 19th century when a specific definition of the child who was engaged in crime was given. Three main developments accord, firstly the increase number of recorded juvenile crime, secondly widespread public concern and debate, and thirdly penal strategies to cope with the growing problem (Goldson and Muncie, 2006).
By the mid 1970’s Britain was a society in national decline, crime levels were very high especially youth violence was on the increase. Britain was facing all lots of problems from economic crisis to violent political struggles between left and far right demonstrators. During the 1970’s when the conservatives won the elections they argued that violence should not just be the concern for the police, but it should also be the concern of parents, teachers and community leaders. According to Goldson and Muncie the way society creates and reacts to youth violence tells us more about social order and the state rather than how to deal with young offenders effectively (Goldson and Muncie, 2006).
In 2005, the Guardian report stated that one on four teenage boys are serious offenders. However these figures were cites out of context and hence created a moral panic among the general public. According to Goldson and Muncie, the number of youths locked up is due to harsher treatment, rather than changes in the youth offending system (Goldson and Muncie, 2006).
82 percent of boys who were released from young offender institutions, offended again within two years of release. Criminal statistics cannot always show a true picture of young people offending (Goldson and Muncie, 2006).
Criminology – Tim Newburn Cullompton : Willan Publishing, 2007.
Youth violence committed during 1981 compared to 1999 significantly decreased from 230,700 to 145,7000. Despite the large amount of youth justice reforms being introduced since 1997, there is little evidence which suggest that youth violence is decreasing.
Young people and offending : education, youth justice and social inclusion / Martin Stephenson. Cullompton : Willan, 2007.
Truancy in school has now become a major problem; many young people who are not in school on most school days have a high risk in becoming involved in youth crime. According to Stephenson, time lost from education is a direct cause of youth crime. Children who truant from school have a higher percentage in being unemployed in the future, becoming teenage parents, and ending up in prison. Lack of training and unemployment, poor skills, low income, poor housing, high crime environments all have direct cause to youth crime (Stephenson, 2007).
Funding to tackle knife
(Home Office, 2011) crimehttp://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/media-centre/news/tackle-knife-crime – accessed on 23/03/2011 Wednesday, 02 Feb 2011
More than £18m to tackle knife, gun and gang crime has been announced by the Home Secretary today. This follows a report into knife crime by former Eastenders actor Brooke Kinsella, whose brother, Ben, was killed three years ago.
Police forces areas where more than half of the country’s knife crime occurs – London, Manchester and the West Midlands – will receive £3.75m. Meanwhile, £4m will support a ‘communities against gangs, guns and knives’ fund – for local voluntary organisations across England and Wales. And £10m has been set aside to fund activities with young people identified as being at risk of becoming involved in crime. The Home Secretary added ‘This new funding will support vital police work where it is most needed and most importantly help young people and local voluntary organisations working at the heart of our communities.’
Media casts youth in a constant bad light – Accessed 23/03/2011 http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2004/oct/12/pressandpublishing.broadcasting Matt Wells, media correspondent – The Guardian, Tuesday 12 October 2004 07.18 BST
According to young people and press articles the media portrays young people in a very negative way. Many youth workers argue that the tabloids portray a negative image of young people.
Dolan Cummings – The telegraph July 15th, 2008http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/dolancummings/4624307/The_moral_panic_over_knife_crime/ accessed on 23/03/2011
There are two major problems with the current debate about knife crime. The first is that national politicians are seeking to solve what ought to be a problem for the Metropolitan Police – a number of unconnected murders, mostly in London – and misrepresenting that problem in the process as an expression of general social breakdown.
The second is that a genuine and much wider moral malaise is being discussed and interpreted through the prism of this localised crime problem, distorting the nature of that malaise.
As members of the Institute of Ideas’ Education Forum recently noted, the high profile given to knives by politicians and the national media has led to politically-motivated campaigns in schools where knife crime is simply not a problem. This strategy risks having the perverse effect of normalising and glamorising the carrying of knives (“Everyone else has got one: where’s yours?”)
Perhaps even more importantly, the fevered debate has refocused important questions about the direction of society on the criminal behaviour of a small number of teenagers. In some respects this looks like a classic “moral panic”, and certainly it is only historical amnesia that keeps us from acknowledging that similar panics have flared up time and again in the past, only to fizzle out.
The notion of moral panic is often misunderstood as suggesting that fears are simply fabricated. In fact what it refers to is the disproportionate and moralistic character of the response, whereby a localised problem, whether minor or serious, is interpreted as an existential threat to society and its mores.
What is arguably new about more recent panics is that contemporary society is less sure of what it does stand for. This genuine moral malaise is more clearly expressed in the meanderings of the political class than in the behaviour of teenagers, but the current debate has become a focus for it, albeit in a distorted form.
In a paper published by the Institute of Ideas in 2005, sociologist Stuart Waiton coined the term ââ‚¬Ëœamoral panic’ to describe situations in which the panic is less about a perceived threat to social mores than anxiety about the absence of any moral consensus to be threatened.
Characteristically, such panics give rise to awareness campaigns and authoritarian gimmicks like curfews, rather than any attempt to address hard moral questions, which indeed often have little to do with the particular issue in the news.
The willingness of the political class to see a localised problem with knife crime as emblematic of a “broken society”, and then to offer technical fixes, is testament to a failure of the moral imagination.
Today’s politicians may be unable to resist the temptation to bundle these two very different problems together. A real moral and political lead would mean leaving knife crime to the police, and offering a political vision capable of inspiring all of us rather than keeping the kids off the streets.
Theresa May announces extra £18m to tackle knife crime
Announcement comes as report by former EastEnders actor Brooke Kinsella calls for more action to tackle the problem, including anti-knife presentations in schools
Alan Travis home affairs editor – guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 2 February 2011 10.38 GMT – Accessed on 23/03/2011
More than £18m extra is to be spent on tackling knife crime and gun and gang culture over the next two years, the home secretary, Theresa May, announced today.
She said the funding was being made available “on the back of” a report into knife crime, published today, by former EastEnders actor Brooke Kinsella, whose brother, Ben, was stabbed to death at the age of 16 three years ago.
The report by Kinsella, who was appointed as an adviser on knife crime to the home secretary last year, calls for anti-knife crime presentations in schools and more preventative work to stop teenagers getting involved in knife and gun crime and a scheme to tackle the “fear and fashion factor” of carrying knives.
“Brooke Kinsella has done a great job in highlighting what works and what could work better in trying to achieve that,” the home secretary said today.
“Off the back of Brooke’s recommendations, we will invest money into changing attitudes and behaviour, alongside being tough on those who persist in being involved in senseless crimes.”
At the London launch of her report today, Kinsella said: “People aren’t shocked any more by the stabbing of a child, and that is not right. There is no more time for talk. I really believe the problem of knife crime has escalated in the past few years, and the impact it has on communities and families is devastating.”
She said local knife crime projects needed more stable funding so they could plan ahead with fewer box-ticking regulations.
The former EastEnders actor said prevention was the keyword, and schools needed to take the problem more seriously with children as young as 10 given anti-knife crime awareness lessons in schools.
Kinsella said: “While seven may be deemed too young for some of the content I experienced in the projects I visited, it seems to be the majority opinion that education and awareness needs to start at primary school level, particularly in the last year before they move up to secondary school and become more susceptible to peer pressure and influence.”
There were also “gaps” in the projects available, she said, and more work to tackle knife-wielding girl gangs was also needed.
She was particularly impressed by a “Fear and Fashion project” run in London, which used workshops and games led by young people with experience of knife crime to get young people to explore and understand the reasons why they might carry a weapon.
She also said the negative portrayal of young people in the media as if they were all criminals meant it was also important to give them better things to aspire to with an awards ceremony for young people.
May, announcing the details of the extra £18m, said that at a time of tight budgets, some issues such as knife crime were too important not to fund.
The money includes £10m to prevent teenagers being sucked into knife and gun gang culture, £4m for a “communities against gangs, guns and knives’ fund”, and £3.75m for the worst-hit areas in London, Manchester and the West Midlands, which account for more than half of all knife crimes.
A further £1m is to be spent on developing anti-knife crime materials for schools and £250,000 will go for one further year to the Ben Kinsella fund set up in memory of Brooke’s brother to help teenagers set up anti-knife crime projects.
He died in June 2008 after a fight in a bar spilled out onto the streets of Islington. Kinsella began working on the knife crime project with the Conservatives before the general election and spent July and August talking to project workers and community leaders about the problem.
At the weekend, a teenager became the UK’s latest victim of knife crime when he was fatally stabbed in front of a stationary bus full of passengers in south London.
Daniel Thompson Graham, 18, was repeatedly knifed near East Dulwich railway station in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The latest crime figures show the number of incidents involving knives fell by 6% to 29,288 over the last year but showed there were 202 fatal stabbings, the same number as the year before.
Mayor backs anti-knife crime operation
2 JUNE 2010 – Fiona.laurent
http://www.london.gov.uk/media/press_releases_mayoral/mayor-backs-anti-knife-crime-operation – Accessed on 23/03/2011
In May 2008, with the support of the Mayor, the Met launched Operation Blunt 2 to tackle the issue of knives being carried in London, often by young people. Blunt 2 officers work across each of the 32 London boroughs.
Since Operation Blunt 2 was launched in May 2008:
– More than 18,000 arrests made by Operation Blunt 2 officers
– More than 9,500 knives seized
– More than 500,000 targets searched
– More than 90 per cent of people accused of possession of a knife have been charged
– And serious violence (categorised ‘most serious’) has dropped by 22 per cent in current financial year to-date
http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org/crime-prevention/latest-crime-statistics – accessed on 23/03/2011 – Crime stoppers, 2009 – Accessed on 23/03/2011
Knife statistics drop The Daily Mirror reports that the number of young people being treated for stab wounds has dropped, and that fewer young people are carrying knives. [11 March 2009. 1 in 3 carry knives The Youth Justice board has found that one in three young people carry a knife or gun and a crime is committed by a young person every two minutes. [6 March 2009] Hardline Scottish knife policy a success The Solicitor General of Scotland has announced that their tough policy on knives has resulted in more than 600 arrests. [2 March 2009]
The vagaries of UK knife crime statistics
By John Steele, Crime Correspondent 12:01AM GMT 20 Mar 2007 – accessed on 23/03/2011 – the telegraph
Up to 60,000 young people, mostly male, may be stabbed and injured each year, the equivalent of more than 160 victims a day, according to a worst-case estimate for knife violence in England and Wales.
On the other hand, the figure may be around 22,000 each year for victims aged 10 – 25-year-old.
The different between the two estimates – derived from the questioning of around 600 under-25s about whether they had been “knifed or stabbed”, and then extrapolated to the wider population, with all the statistical vagaries that entails – reflects the lack of precise information about the scale of knife crime in England and Wales.
It is also unclear whether knife crime is going down or up. Available official statistics suggest it has fallen since the mid-1990s, but the Government concedes the limited figures are far from reliable.
The death of Adam Regis, aged 15, at the weekend, and the stabbing of Kodjo Yenga, a 16-year-old, last week do little to dispel the perception that knife violence is a major problem, though it remains the case that knife murders – for which there are reliable figures – are rare.
Reid: We don’t know enough about knife crime
20 Mar 2007
The two deaths also reflect a reality which is widely acknowledged, even if the scale is unclear. If you are young, male, black or Asian, and you live in a high-crime inner city area, you are far more likely to be a victim of knife violence.
John Reid, for once eschewing the promise of instant legislation, acknowledged the gaps in the picture yesterday when he committed the Home Office to collecting better statistics on the use of knives in crime.
New laws – or perhaps another knife amnesty – would probably have little effect. Knife crime has grown in the last three decades despite the passage of various laws. Last year’s Violent Crime Reduction Act banned the sale of knives to anyone under 18.
It was already an offence under the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 to have an offensive weapon in a public place; this includes ”any article made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person, or intended by the person having it with him for such use by him or by some other person”.
The Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959 banned the carrying, manufacture, sale, purchase, hire or lending of flick-knives and ”gravity knives”. The Criminal Justice Act 1988 contained a list of prohibited martial arts-style weapons and made it an offence to carry an article with a blade or sharp point in a public place. The Offensive Weapons Act 1996 made it illegal to sell knives to children under 16. The Knives Act 1997 prohibited the marketing of combat knives.
There is a wide recognition in policing and criminal justice circles that, unlike gun crime, the pattern of knife crime has not been closely monitored. There is little doubt that gun crime, particularly handgun crime, has more than doubled since Labour came to power – again despite legislation, in the form of a post-Dunblane ban on handguns.
The estimate of up to 57,900 annual “knifing or stabbing” victims comes from the Government’s Offending, Crime and Justice Survey (OCJS) which, like the bigger British Crime Survey (BCS), questions people about their experiences of crime.
However, because the number of victims of violence in such surveys are relatively small, extrapolated conclusions are correspondingly less reliable.
The BCS suggests the number of violent incidents involving knives in 2005/2006 was, at 169,000, around half the level of 340,000 in 1995, though it had increased on 2004 – 2005 and had been rising since the previous year The proportion of overall violent incidents involving knives was eight per cent in 1995 and seven per cent in 2005 – 2006.
BCS findings also suggest that the use of knives in woundings, common assaults and robberies followed similar patterns – significant falls on 1995 but an upwards trend since 2003. Homicides involving “sharp instruments” – knives and bottles – have fallen since 1995 as a proportion of overall killings. There were 236 in 2004 – 2005.
There is no statistical uncertainty about someone being stabbed to death. However, the accuracy of
Cite This Work
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below: