In launching the Home Office’s £2.8bn five-year plan to cut
crime this week, Blunkett pandered to the electorate’s worst
instincts with yet more draconian policies aimed at the hordes of
young “yobs” and “hooligans” who terrorise our streets.
Despite a broad political and popular consensus that prison doesn’t
work, Labour policy has flung the doors to custody wider open than
ever. Breaches of antisocial behaviour orders have resulted in an
11 per cent increase in young people being jailed since January. We
are now sending to prison children who may be guilty of nothing
more threatening than a few bits of graffiti. Irritating and
irresponsible, yes. Criminal, no.
Yet at the same time, this government has introduced a range of
intelligent policies for children and families at risk of
exclusion. Early intervention programmes such as youth inclusion
support panels are tackling the root causes of criminal behaviour.
New emphasis is being placed on helping offenders with drug or
alcohol problems. And a range of enlightened community sentences is
being developed to enable magistrates to keep young people out of
In this climate, a “yob” to one branch of government is a
“vulnerable young person” to another. Is it any wonder that those
actually working with them are confused?