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Let us not criminalise ever more groups of young people, chief pleads


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His 'be careful' intervention comes as UK fatal stabbings total hits 100 in 2019.

CC Dave Thompson: Criminalising for very minor offence would compound the problem

CC Dave Thompson: Criminalising for very minor offence would compound the problem

Date - 18th May 2019
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle
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A chief has warned that today’s policing must not criminalise even more groups of young people despite services to steer them away from knife crime having “disappeared”.

Chief Constable Dave Thompson says children can be diverted away from violence with early interventions such as conditional cautions, including cognitive behavioural therapy and restorative justice.

However, the head of the West Midlands force said it would be wrong to advocate the same approach for "hardened gang members".

But he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We have just got to be careful what we don't do is see the answer as criminalising ever more groups of young people, perhaps for very minor offences, because I think that would just compound the problem."

His comments come on the day the UK reached the most unwanted of milestones – the 100th fatal stabbing this year.

Knife crime victim number 100 is John Lewis, 32, who died on Tuesday night in an incident in Middlesbrough.

This year's deadly spate of stabbings started with 2019 just minutes old when 33-year-old mother Charlotte Huggins was killed in London. 

The youngest victim so far this year is 14-year-old Jaden Moodie, who was knocked off a moped and stabbed to death by a gang in Leyton, east London in January. 

Barbara Heywood, at 80, is the oldest victim so far. She was attacked at her Bolton home in March.

Eight of those fatal incidents were in the West Midlands – the majority not surprisingly being in the capital with London accounting for 30 of them.

CC Thompson welcomed an extra £7.6 million funding boost from the government to help with violent crime – receiving the lion’s share of a final £12.4m tranche of cash to tackle bloodshed on Britain’s streets.

But he said his force has 2,000 fewer police officers than in 2010.

"There is an absolute resourcing issue and I would not hide from that," he added.

"We have got some extra funding, which is helpful, but I think there is a huge issue here.

"There is no question in this force area that when we look to diversion services, they don't exist in the way they did."

Research published last week suggested cuts to youth services in England could be linked to the rise in knife violence.

Knife crime reached a record level last year in England and Wales with 40,829 offences involving knives or sharp objects recorded by police in 2018.

Analysis by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime found areas suffering the largest cuts have seen bigger increases in knife crime, although it is not possible to directly compare the geographical areas covered by police forces and local authority boundaries.

The City of Wolverhampton, which is policed by West Midlands Police, along with the City of Westminster, were the worst hit, with youth services cut by 91 per cent, according to the figures obtained under freedom of information laws.

City of Wolverhampton Council said in its response to the request for information that more young people use the OnSide Youth Zone, which has attracted private and grant support, than ever used youth centres.

Javed Khan, chief executive of charity Barnardo's, said: "Children are children. They are not born with knives in their hands, but when there is little or no possibility of a positive future – what we call a 'poverty of hope' – they are highly vulnerable to exploitation and criminality.

"Government needs to work with urgency and in partnership with children's services, educationalists, charities, social workers, youth workers, the criminal justice system and local communities to tackle this crisis."

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I do not believe that we, in any way, criminalise ever more groups of young people. Many young people criminalise themselves by their behaviour. It is up to them whether they commit an offence or they do not. There are hoards of decent youngsters out there who would not dream of committing crime.

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I think it's part of the problem, this obsession with not wanting to criminalise the young. I understand it, it's very noble, but the problem is, that they think they can get away with it because people don't want to make them criminals - despite them being just that.

I've argued this for years. We are making a rod for our own back and the longer it continues, the worse it will get. It won't happen in the short-term, but start sending out the message that society will be getting tough and I think we would see a good drop in criminality.

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How can a brief interaction with the law undo over a decade of poor/absent parenting?

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We've been moving away from criminalising or punishing teenagers for years.  Schools can't punish kids and we offer multiple get out of jail free cards from restorative justice as well as  simple and conditional cautions.  We're now also going to try orders or notices to try to prevent teenagers from carrying knives or for using mobile phones, so it seems to me that we have possible gone to far in trying to avoid criminalising teens and that we should go back in the other direction.

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We've been moving away from criminalising or punishing teenagers for years.  Schools can't punish kids and we offer multiple get out of jail free cards from restorative justice as well as  simple and conditional cautions.  We're now also going to try orders or notices to try to prevent teenagers from carrying knives or for using mobile phones, so it seems to me that we have possible gone to far in trying to avoid criminalising teens and that we should go back in the other direction.

What like? 6 months in a YOI for every 11 year old caught stealing a packet of polos or pushing his schoolmate over?
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I think it's part of the problem, this obsession with not wanting to criminalise the young.


Whether or not a young person is ‘criminalised’ is merely the outcome of a process.

When young get cuffed and / or put in the back of a police car, the majority poop themselves.

I also worked in Youth Offending and saw how many ‘hard’ young offenders were in tears when I used to go down to the cells to assess them after being sent down.

I have also come across young people whom I said that I was going to take home and that they would have to explain what they did to their parents before I made a decision about how to proceed with them. Many begged me to get nicked- perhaps knowing that their parent(s) would immediately jump to their defence and claim that they were picked on. But when little Johnny made a confession in front of his parent(s) it was a very different encounter indeed. The same parent(s) whom would have claimed that little Johnny got treated unfairly then turned on me moaning that I didn’t arrest him.

There is a level of nuance here. Bad acts need to be criminalised but one off incidents of making poor decisions that have a limited on communities shouldn’t be criminalised as a matter or course.


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23 hours ago, Reasonable Man said:


What like? 6 months in a YOI for every 11 year old caught stealing a packet of polos or pushing his schoolmate over?

Why do you feel the need to make a grossly exaggerated and sarcastic response, is it because deep down you lack in your own convictions on the matter?

Did you stop to think that the significant majority of 11 year olds don't commit crime, and do not go on to commit crime?  The system works in as much that plenty of young people have a level of decency and respect for others in that they understand the difference between right and wrong, and subsequently demonstrate the responsibility to make the right choices.

All criminals start somewhere... the hypothetical 11 year old found committing crime for the first time and held to account for their actions cannot be the result of a flawed criminal justice system if they've never been part of it, can they?

Edited by Lone Wolf
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Why do you feel the need to make a grossly exaggerated and sarcastic response, is it because deep down you lack in your own convictions on the matter?
Did you stop to think that the significant majority of 11 year olds don't commit crime, and do not go on to commit crime?  The system works in as much that plenty of young people have a level of decency and respect for others in that they understand the difference between right and wrong, and subsequently demonstrate the responsibility to make the right choices.
All criminals start somewhere... the hypothetical 11 year old found committing crime for the first time and held to account for their actions cannot be the result of a flawed criminal justice system if they've never been part of it, can they?

I was not being sarcastic. I was pointing out the other end of the argument/discussion.
There’s plenty of condemnation about being soft on the 16/17 year olds with an offending history but every one of those started somewhere.
What I was (maybe clumsily) putting across was, at which point should the CJS so ‘something’ about the offending by juveniles?
We have had years of ideas. Borstal and the ‘short sharp shock’ didn’t work, now ideas to not criminalise young people is being condemned.
You are right in that I have no convictions because I don’t know the answer. Somewhere between the 11 year old committing his first offence and that same person being 17 committing his 50th offence something has to be done. But what and when? Those are the things the CJS hasn’t sorted out in the last 100+ years so what chance have I got?
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No discipline, no respect and no fear of the justice system because they know it is loaded in their favour. We should never be making any apology for hauling some poor deluded juvenile criminal before the courts. I Believe that Lone Wolf got it spot on.

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30 minutes ago, Reasonable Man said:


I was not being sarcastic. I was pointing out the other end of the argument/discussion.
 

And RM the point I was making was in response to the CC's comments and I was saying that there are already loads of ways to avoid criminalising teenagers, so its not as if we need to find more ways to avoid criminalising them.

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