Page last updated at 00:11 GMT, Monday, 25 August 2008 01:11 UK

Government 'criminalising young'

Hoodies
The report said some behaviour would be better dealt with informally

The government is too quick to criminalise young people for petty offences where informal punishment could be more effective, says a report.

Ex-Youth Justice Board chairman Prof Rod Morgan criticised an "extensive net widening" of the use of summary powers such as cautions and on-the-spot fines.

His report for King's College, London, urged assessment of the development.

The Ministry of Justice said there was a reluctance to bring young people to court unless necessary.

The report for the college's Centre for Crime and Justice Studies said: "There is a good deal of anecdotal evidence, for example, that behaviour, particularly that of children and young people, is being criminalised which arguably would be better dealt with informally (school-related misbehaviour, for example) and in previous times was."

The trend towards pre-court summary justice should more incisively be scrutinised to ensure that justice is being meted out fairly and effectively
Prof Rod Morgan

It added: "The increased use of pre-court summary justice is one of the most important elements in the government's strategy for modernising the criminal justice system.

"The implementation of the strategy has received virtually no research, inspectoral or parliamentary scrutiny.

"The trend towards pre-court summary justice should more incisively be scrutinised to ensure that justice is being meted out fairly and effectively. We cannot be wholly confident that this is so."

Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve accused the government of "pursuing easy targets instead of going after the real criminals".

"Not only are serious offenders escaping real justice due to the reliance on spot-fines but, as this report shows, many people who should be dealt with informally are being criminalised," he said.

Police time

The Ministry of Justice said the government was keen to avoid individuals, especially children, being prosecuted through the courts when an equally effective alternative could be found.

A spokesman said: "The best way to avoid a criminal record is not to break the law.

"The law-abiding majority want to see crimes dealt with effectively, and fixed-penalty notices and cautions are part of this process.

"They allow police to deal swiftly with low-level offending, freeing them up to spend more time on frontline duties and more time investigating violent, dangerous and serious offences."




SEE ALSO
Fitting the crime?
25 Aug 08 |  UK
Jail for youths 'a last resort'
07 Aug 08 |  UK Politics
Youth crime plan targets families
15 Jul 08 |  UK Politics
Q&A: Youth justice system
26 Jan 07 |  UK

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific