Youth justice in the UK: children, young people and crime
Youth justice in the UK: children, young people and crime

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Youth justice in the UK: children, young people and crime

Session 1: Children or criminals?


This first session is all about the age of criminal responsibility – the age at which someone can be arrested and charged with a criminal offence. This is important because it says so much about the way society thinks of children. In this session you will consider how the law defines the boundary between being an adult and a child and sets limits on what someone is allowed to do. You will use the internet to listen to people talking about the issues. You will also get to see what children think about the way the criminal law attaches labels to them.

Watch the following video, in which course author Rod Earle from The Open University introduces this session.

Download this video clip.Video player: Session 1 introduction
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Transcript: Session 1 introduction

Stories about children and young people in crime are rarely far from the news headlines. Whether it's stories about youthful disorder or being involved in distressing incidents with dreadful consequences, what children do and the way society responds affects us deeply. We've all been young once. And some of us probably got into trouble or at least, had friends who did.
I worked in the youth justice in the 1980s and 1990s. And although that seems a long time ago now, it means I've seen how ideas come and go. And how some ideas hang around. On this course, you'll get to grips with these ideas. And understand the way things are always changing in the youth justice, but also, somehow, not changing enough. That's why it's called diversity in principle and practice.
The UK is made up of four jurisdictions-- England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. In each of these, there may be subtle or dramatic differences, both in the principles-- that's the basic ideas-- that shape the way children in trouble are dealt with and in what people actually do. In other words, the practice of youth justice.
But before you start looking at these jurisdictions, there's one basic principle I want you to explore-- the legal principle of how children are defined in law. It's a complicated, but fundamental issue. And I think you may find a few things that surprise you.
Later in the course, the focus shifts onto background issues that are also fundamental to youth justice practice. The way that children are treated according to whether they're a girl or a boy, rich or poor. And the way racism and ethnicity influence what happens to you. Research tells us time and time, again, that these are profoundly significant in shaping what happens to a child as they grow up.
There's also quizzes along the way so that you can consolidate your learning. And if you want to, at the end, you can receive a certificate of completion.
I hope you enjoy the learning journey through the diversity of principle and practice in youth justice. And that it includes a few surprises along the way.
End transcript: Session 1 introduction
Session 1 introduction
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By the end of this session, you should be able to:

  • appreciate how the age of criminal responsibility is a key indicator of social responses to children’s behaviour
  • understand that there are wide international variations in the age of criminal responsibility.

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