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Young people, crime and justice.


Hopkins-Burke, R. (2008). Cullompton: Willan.

pp256. 58.00hbk [pounds sterling] ISBN 978-1-84392-368-8 19.99pbk [pounds sterling] ISBN 978-1-84392-367-1

This is a timely volume reflecting on the current concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour associated with young people and on the attempts of the Labour government since 1997 to respond to these concerns. In doing so, the author establishes that anxieties about the conduct of young people are no new phenomenon and that successive panics have arisen throughout the modern period. At the present time, however, in late modernity, perceptions of risk and insecurity have resulted in increased measures of social control, both formal and informal, impinging upon young people's lives.

Roger Hopkins-Burke is here attempting to provide a rounded basic text, written from an explicitly left realist perspective, which means that he has sympathies with both the attempts of the Labour administration to respond positively to young people offending or at risk of offending and with the concerns raised by critics of the reformed youth justice system. The book is divided into three broad sections:

i. Young people, criminality and criminal justice

ii. Explaining youth criminal behaviour

iii. The contemporary youth justice system and its critics.

These sections are in themselves fairly introductory but, taken together, do provide a challenging analysis of the way that contemporary British society views young people and the measures in place for control, discipline and, significantly in the author's view, tutelage.

The first section outlines how these three elements have featured throughout history in the social policy relating to young people, and how the emphasis has changed at different periods. The discussion of tutelage as a means of social control via education, employment and activities such as youthwork and social work is of particular relevance to the latter stages of the book. Here tutelage features prominently again, but more explicitly as a means of attempting inclusion and reintegration within the Third Way politics of New Labour.

The first section of the book provides useful context, examining the changing constructions of childhood and adolescence throughout modernity and the resultant twists and turns in policy. The second section looks at theoretical explanations for young people's criminality. While it covers all the main schools of thought organised into rational actor, biological, psychological and sociological theorising, a student wishing to develop an in depth understanding would be advised to supplement the material in this volume--perhaps by visiting Hopkins-Burke's own explorations of criminological theory in earlier publications.

The analysis of the reformed youth justice system in the final section is perhaps more of a mixed bag. The criminal justice context is clearly delineated and the influence of Third Way politics, communitarianism, risk thinking and large social changes following changes in the labour market and relationships between citizens and state are spelt out. The characteristics of the new youth justice system are also explained and analysed--the rhetoric versus reality of a reliance on an evidence-base, the predominance of the risk factor paradigm, the audit culture and the growing acceptance of increasingly intrusive control measures.

Thus far the discussion is entirely convincing. However, what is less authoritative is the discussion of the workings of the system and specific measures in place. In particular, the detail of referral orders and young offender panels is vague and the author misses opportunity to analyse the intended role of referral orders in promoting restorative justice and in providing a different kind of intervention that represented a significant move away from the supervision of young people available under the 'old' youth justice system so much reviled by New Labour. The significance of the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programmes and their role as an add on to custodial sentences, rather than an intensive community alternative, are also skated over. Both of these are pertinent to themes that are developed and could have greatly enhanced the analysis.

This may be a quibble too far, but I found it rather curious that the author makes no mention of the major restructuring of children's services and the relationships between youth offending teams and Children's Trusts, which is surely highly significant to the debate about dealing with the causes of crime that he feels the reformed system is at risk of neglecting.

Attempts at being comprehensive are perhaps always doomed and will be susceptible to such criticisms in terms of omissions and accuracy. The fact remains that this is a useful text for students and others looking at aspects of young people and crime, and one that takes a pragmatic view of the need to provide a response to the harms caused by young people and the risks that they face, even if the implementation

of policy does not always fulfil its intentions and expectations.

Anne Robinson, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Community Justice, Sheffield Hallam University
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Author:Robinson, Anne
Publication:British Journal of Community Justice
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2009
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