Politicians urged to back young people

Politicians should give greater priority to protecting young
people from victimisation and to challenging society’s
“schizophrenic attitudes” towards them, a youth crime
prevention conference heard last week.

Marian FtizGerald, visiting professor of criminology at Kent
University, told the conference run by rehabilitation agency Nacro:
“For every Victoria Climbie, over whom we rightly weep, there
are probably hundreds if not thousands of children who survive
years of harsh and erratic discipline, neglect and cruelty.

“But they may not come to the attention of the system at all
until suddenly they are generating headlines about ‘feral

Her comments came as the government delayed publication of the
youth green paper, which had been expected on July 11, by at least
another week.

FitzGerald attacked the growing use of antisocial behaviour orders,
which evidence suggested was “pulling some young people
further into the justice system, rather than helping them

She said that for a minority of children, schools were the
“only readily accessible source of protection”. This
raised concerns about the government’s desire to reinforce
schools’ autonomy by excluding them from the duty to
co-operate under the Children Act 2004, she warned.

She said the pressure of league tables, and particularly targets on
GCSEs, was a further obstacle to schools’ involvement in
crime prevention.

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