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Government 'too ready' to criminalise children.

THE Government was yesterday accused of being too quick to criminalise youngsters for petty offences that could be dealt with outside the legal system.

Professor Rod Morgan, former chairman of the youth justice board, said the offences could often be better punished informally.

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve accused the Government of "pursuing easy targets" instead of "real criminals".

In his report for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, Prof Morgan said there had been an "extensive net widening" in the use of summary powers such as cautions and on-the-spot fines.

The report found there was "too ready criminalisation of children and young people for minor offences". It said: "There is a good deal of anecdotal evidence, for example, that behaviour, particularly that of children and young people, is being criminalised which arguably would be better dealt with informally (school-related misbehaviour, for example) and in previous times was."

Prof Morgan said: "The increased use of pre-court summary justice is one of the most important elements in the Government's strategy for modernising the criminal justice system. The implementation of the strategy has received virtually no research, inspectoral or parliamentary scrutiny.

"The trend towards pre-court summary justice should more incisively be scrutinised to ensure that justice is being meted out fairly and effectively. We cannot be wholly confident that this is so."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 25, 2008
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