Reasoned debate on youth crime needed, says voluntary sector

A group of leading voluntary organisations has called for a more
reasoned debate on youth crime in the media after a three month
analysis of press coverage found reports repeatedly referring to
children as ‘thugs’, ‘louts’ and
‘yobs’, writes Clare

The research by Shape, which is made up of leading organisations
including Nacro, Barnardo’s and NCH, finds that the media
sends a clear message that the youth justice system should be
harder on children in trouble. Tougher sentences should be handed
out and detention should be made harsher.

Newspaper articles suggest the youth justice system does not
work, youth detention needs to become more accountable and there
should be a shift in policy to tackle the causes of youth

Over three months, the term ‘thug’ was used 36 times
and ‘yob’ was used on 21 occasions, the report says. In
some of the more sensational reports, young people were referred to
as brutes, monsters, hooligans and scallies.

Shape believes the messages portrayed in the press are unhelpful
and is calling for a more reasoned debate in the media about young
people in trouble with the law.

“Strategies that divide communities, enable one section to
‘blame’ another section or group, or stigmatise
individuals will only serve to further marginalise people,”
the report says.

It calls for the public to be made more aware of the
effectiveness of community penalties and the negative impact that
custody has on young people.

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