Naming and shaming young people involved in the riots across England will hamper their chances of rehabilitation and will fuel vigilante action, campaigners have warned.
The warning follows new guidelines, issued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that indicate when courts can apply to withdraw the automatic anonymity that protects young offenders.
They were issued after home secretary Theresa May asked prosecutors to name young people convicted of rioting, where possible.
She told Sky News: “I’ve asked that CPS guidance should go to prosecutors to say that where possible they should be asking for the anonymity of juveniles that have been found guilty of criminal activity to be lifted.”
Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the moves would be a disproportionate “double” punishment and could lead to further trouble.
“Lifting anonymity for children convicted of participating in the riots will serve as a double punishment, as their name will be forever in the newspapers, and cause problems reintegrating into society for a lifetime. It will also fuel vigilante action,” Neilson said.
He said the punishment would be dealt with by imprisonment, which he claimed “does nothing to solve the underlying causes of youth crime”. Naming and shaming would “simply perpetuate and exacerbate the very problems that led young people to take part in the disturbances in the first place”, he added.
Rebecca Nadin, campaigns officer for the Out of Trouble programme at the Prison Reform Trust, agreed that “naming and shaming sets a dangerous precedent and could damage children’s long term chances of rehabilitation”.
Instead, she said, victims and young offenders should be brought together so the latter can make amends for the harm they have caused. This would be a “more effective way of ensuring public confidence and justice being seen to be done in local communities”.
The home secretary’s moves are part of the government’s tough stance on rioters. May yesterday said she was considering plans for curfews to create no-go areas in the event of future riots. Earlier this week, work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith caused a stir when he said convicted rioters should be stripped of any benefits they may be claiming.
An online petition calling for rioters and looters to lose all their benefits and be evicted from social housing has now been signed by tens of thousands of people.
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