Youth and Justice

Prior to the 17th century the terms ‘youth’ and ‘childhood’ were non-existent and so ‘youth offending’ was also a non-existent term. However, crime committed by young people under the age of 18 did exist. This illustrates societies need for categorisation and labelling in order to understand, define and explain something (Aries, 1962) During this time, children were tried and punished as an adult would be and thus, the idea of ‘youth offending’ and the fear of ‘youth criminalisation’ was not something people would discuss, however, since this discovery and the assistance of the media, it has now become a common misconception that youths, who adapt a certain look or behaviour must be criminals.

Quite often, without realising, we assume that because of the way a person looks or behaves that they must have criminal tendencies. An example of this is the case of Bilewater shopping centre in Kent. Due to certain clothing items such as hoodies and caps being described in the media as worn by offenders, they were banned in this area of the UK (Wayne et al, 2010) It has also become clear from recent research that those in residential care homes are particularly at risk of being criminalised. In 2014, 47 children’s homes in one police force generated over 3500 calls (NCB, 2015) however, it is believed that the majority of these crimes are committed due to mistrust in the police for reasons such as feeling like a target.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, Section G, outlines the police power of arrests, in my current job role as a police station representative, I see many cases coming in whereby a police officer has stopped and searched a youth ‘due to looking suspicious’. A report written by the Kings College centre for youth and justice studies stated that “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.” (BBC News, 2008). The serious action constantly taken against young people who commit misdemeanours in schools for example, are considered to be causing a fear in the public that ‘all young people commit crime’ or that ‘all groups of youths on the street wearing hoodies bust be drug dealers’. This stereotype is causing fear in society, which as a result could be considered to be the reason young people act out more than normal, as they feel targeted and under surveillance.

Do you think that children who come from care homes or who have mental health issues are more criminalised than others?

By Shelby Keppel



 BBC News. 2008. Government criminalising the young. Available online at Last Accessed, 23rd July 2020

Wayne, M, Detley, J, Murray, C, Henderson, L, 2010, The Symbolic Criminalisation of young people, online at (Accessed 17th July 2020)

National children’s bureau. 2015. Children at risk of criminalisation for trivial misbehaviour. Available online at,improve%20the%20relationship%20between%20children%20and%20the%20police. Last Accessed 23rd July 2020

Case, S. (2018) Youth Justice: A criminal introduction. Abingdon. Routledge. Online via the Vitalsource bookshelf. Last Accessed 23rd July 2020 


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