“The concept of the Juvenile Offender is a Victorian creation” (Leon Radzinowicz, 1990)
This essay seeks to discuss the idea “The concept of the Juvenile Offender is Victorian creation” by considering the position domestically under the criminal justice system in relation to youth justice through the legislative enactments put into place. There is also a need to evaluate the relationship that exists between the law and the individual (i.e. the young offender when they are put through the criminal justice process). In addition, this essay also compares and contrasts the methods used by historians and literary scholars for assessing the Juvenile Offender through consideration of novels including principally Charles Dickens' 'Oliver Twist'.
“Juvenile Offender”; “Victorian”; “Law”
“The concept of the Juvenile Offender is a Victorian creation” (Leon Radzinowicz, 1990)
In seeking to discuss the idea that “The concept of the Juvenile Offender is Victorian creation” it is necessary to consider the position under the criminal justice system in the UK currently in relation to youth justice through the legislative enactments that were put into place in this regard in contemporary times. Moreover, there is also a need to look to evaluate the relationship that exists between the law and the individual in this regard (i.e. the young offender when they are put through the criminal justice process). In addition, this essay will also seeks to compare and contrast the methods used by historians and literary scholars for assessing the value of the concept of the Juvenile Offender through consideration of novels including Charles Dickens' 'Oliver Twist'. Finally, this essay will conclude with a summary of the key points derived from this discussion in relation to the recognition of the value of the concept of the Juvenile Offender regarding the way in which their criminal activities are dealt with within the legal system.
Looking to place the concept of the Juvenile Offender into its given context within Victorian society it is to be appreciated that Charles Dickens' 'Oliver Twist' is a very early example of the social novel that served to comment on the state of affairs within the UK at the time of Dickens' writing (Miller, 1987). In so doing the book served to call British society's attention and sensibilities towards dealing with various contemporary evils. To this effect particular reference was made to the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 which recognised that poor people were required to work in workhouses/poorhouses that was of signfiicant importance in view of the fact that the book was initially set in the poorhouse where Oliver and his fellow children were put to work. The reason for this is founded on the fact that the UK during the nineteenth century saw a significant population increase that was followed with similarly paced urbanisation associated with the 'Industrial Revolution'. With vast numbers of workers at all levels within society being forced to work for wages barely matching levels of subsistence and housing proving somewhat scarce such problems were then only further exacerbated in London. To this effect, academics including Kellow Chesney (1970) looked upon the situation at this time in the following manner “Hideous slums, some of them acres wide, some no more than crannies of obscure misery, make up a substantial part of the metropolis . . . In big, once handsome houses, thirty or more people . . . may inhabit a single room” so as to then only further emphasise the impoverished state of affairs within society.
Additionally, however, for the purposes of this discussion child labour and the recruitment of children as criminals was particular important in view of the way in which Juvenile Offenders were perpetrated through the activities of 'The Artful Dodger' in Dickens' great work (Miller, 1987). Dickens' writing is arguably reflective of the fact that, as academics have recognised in more contemporary times, a great deal of significance has long been attached to a child's welfare in relation to whenever they have dealings with the youth justice system. This is with regards to the simple reason that it has been recognised that 'labelling' a child as criminal or 'deviant' could have repercussions for both their future growth and development within society as individuals (Henslin, 1999). It is to be appreciated that children have always fallen foul of the law since the beginning of civilised society itself in the UK. During the nineteenth century, however, it needs to be recognised that in a time of great poverty children were living on streets with overcrowded housing and a significant lack of parental care so that they needed to do anything necessary to stay alive. On this basis, this then effectively meant drifting into a life of crime in an effort to obtain things many of us now take for granted in terms of food, clothing, shelter, security and care in what is often referred to as a more plentiful modern society (Greenwood, 1869).
It is also interesing to note that prior to the Victorian period no specific distinction was recognised between adult and young criminals so that they could both be sent to adult prison and even be hanged. As a result, Victorians were clearly extremely concerned about crime and its causes so that reformers sought to vary the way in which children were to be treated - although they still believed in the implementation of strict punishments with a view to then providing for sufficient redress (Mayhew, 1985). Therefore, in 1854, Reformatory Schools were established in the UK for dealing with offenders under the age of 16 with discipline enforced by frequent beatings over long sentences and offenders also normally began their sentences with brief spells in adult prisons (Greenwood, 1869). However, as has already been alluded to with regards to Dickens' work, crime commited by young offenders served to shock Victorian society and it is interesting to note that, even 20 years prior to 'Oliver Twist's' publication, in 1816 Parliament established a 'Committee for Investigating the Alarming Increase in Juvenile Crime in the Metropolis'. It was not, however, until 30 years later that a significant move was made towards treating children differently through the implementation of the Juvenile Offenders Act 1847 that stated young people under 14 (increased to 16) needed to be tried in a special court.
With a view to considering the position under the criminal justice system currently it is to be appreciated that the sentences courts are able to impose on a young offender ('Juvenile Offender') and what issues they account for when deciding an appropriate sentence is determined under section 44 of the Children & Young Persons Act (CAYPA) 1933. The CAYPA 1933 was then only further supplemented by the terms of the Childrne & Young Persons Act 1969 and section 37 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 because the youth justice system aims to prevent offences from being committed along with reoffending. Moreover, section 9(1) of the Criminal Justice & Immigration Act (CJIA) 2008 inserted section 142A into the Criminal Justice Act (CJA) 2003 for the 'Purposes etc. of sentencing: offenders under 18' with the purpose being to recognise - (i) the aim of the youth justice system, (ii) the offender's welfare, and (iii) sentencing's purposes mentioned in subsection (3). Section 142A(3) of the CJA 2003 also provides for the implementation of sentencing for those aged 10-17 for - (a) punishment; (b) reform and rehabilitation; (c) the protection of the public; and (d) the making of reparations (Easton & Piper, 2008, pp.246-247) as well as inserting provisions in the terms of the Crime & Disorder Act (CDA) 1998 through the use of 'Youth Conditional Cautions' that offer an option pre-court to permit young offenders to be dealt with without resorting to the jurisdiction of the courts (Youth Conditional Cautions: Code of Practice Order 2009).
At the same time, however, there is a need to appreciate that a 'Youth Conditional Caution' cannot be utilised where a young offender has previously been convicted or where they have not admitted their guilt in relation to the commital of a particular criminal offence. As a result, it also needs to be recognised that referral orders have been utilised under sections 1-5 of the Youth Justice & Criminal Evidence Act (YJCEA) 1999 (consolidated by the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 and amended by the Referral Orders (Amendment of Referral Conditions) Regulations 2003 along with sections 35-37 of the CJIA 2008) for those who would be convicted by the courts for the first time for not less than 3 months and no more than a year (Newburn, 2002). With this in mind, referral orders serve to guarantee that young offenders are made aware of the impact of their crimes and account for the wishes of the victims (Newburn, 2002). In addition, a system of 'final warnings' could also be used for 'control' under sections 65 and 66 of the CDA 1998 that replaced the widespread cautioning of offenders under 18. Therefore, if a young offender's first offence is within a prescribed range of gravity and they plead their guilt they will then receive a 'final warning' and be referred to a Youth Offending Team (Fox, Dhami & Mantle, 2006).
Moreover, child safety orders have also been used as part of the process for dealing with young offenders under 10 under the CDA 1998 for the purposes of 'early intervention' for dealing with criminal activity (UK Government, 1999, at p.181), whilst child curfews were meant to deal with the problem of unsupervised children in public late a night under section 30(6) of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 (W v. Commission of Police for the Metropolis & the London Borough of Richmond-Upon-Thames). In addition, it also needs to be recognised that the use of ASBOs also served to emphasise a young person's welfare through civil injunctions applied for against anyone over the age of 10 through the terms of CDA 1998 (Home Office White Paper, 2003). However, in the way that Dickens implied in his work during Victorian times (Miller, 1987), it is to be appreciated that ASBOs are still arguably criminalising young offenders' behaviour to their detriment within UK society. Therefore, the enactment of the CDA 1998 was focussed upon the criminal behaviour of children under 18 with local authorities looking to develop a crime strategy regarding the needs for assessment and rehabilitation, bail support, demand placements, reports, and community sentence and post-custody supervisions (Scraton, 2004).
To conclude, it is clear that, whilst the concept of the Juvenile Offender may have been a Victorian creation, the need to deal effectively with Juvenile Offenders still has great signifcance today. The reason for this is illustrated by the fact that, not only have numerous enactments been put into place to deal with young offenders, but also many processes and procedures have been adopted with a view to supporting the efforts that have beed made in Victorian times to develop a system of youth justice. To this effect policy makers have looked to adopt a process that not only serves to punish criminal elements but also looks to prevent them being stigmatised through the development of more rehabilitative techniques. That such a state of affairs has developed is despite the fact that it has been recognised as a central 'goal' of government policy to 'crack down' upon crime being committed by young people in relation to the importance of exrting 'control' as well as rehabilitative effects. Therefore, although 'control' may be a key focus of policy makers regarding their dealings with young offenders so their welfare has become somewhat secondary, there is still a need to cater for their needs as members of society after they have been through the criminal justice process.
Chesney. K (1970) 'The Victorian Underworld' M.T. Smith
Easton. S & Piper. C (2008 reprint) 'Sentencing & Punishment: The Quest for Justice' Oxford University Press
'Halsbury's Laws of England' (2009) Lexis Nexis, Butterworths
Henslin. J. M (1999) 'Sociology: A Down to Earth Approach' 4th Edition, Boston: Allyn & Bacon
Miller. J. H (1987) ‘The Dark World of Oliver Twist', in ‘Charles Dickens', (Edited by Harold Bloom) Chelsea House Publishers
Newburn. T (2002) ‘Young people & youth justice', in M. Maguire, R. Morgan, & R. Reiner (Editors) ‘The Oxford Handbook of Criminology', Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press
Fox. D, Dhami. M. K & Mantle. G (2006) 'Restorative Final Warnings: Policy & Practice' (May) 45(2) Howard Journal of Criminal Practice 129-140
Scraton. P (2004) ‘Streets of Terror: Marginalization, Criminalization, & Authoritarian Renewal' 31(1-2) Social Justice 130
Greenwood. J (1869) 'The Seven Curses of London: Juvenile Thieves' Stanley Rivers (http://www.victorianlondon.org/publications/sevencurses.htm)
Mayhew. H (1985) ‘London Labour & the London Poor: Statement of a Young Pickpocket' Penguin (originally published 1851) (http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/MayLond.html)
Home Office White Paper (2003) ‘Respect & Responsibility-Taking a Stand Against Anti-Social Behaviour' Home Office (March)
UK Parliament (1816) 'Committee for Investigating the Alarming Increase in Juvenile Crime in the Metropolis'
Youth Conditional Cautions: Code of Practice Order 2009
Table of Cases
W v. Commission of Police for the Metropolis & the London Borough of Richmond-Upon-Thames  EWCA 458
Table of Statutes
Children & Young Persons Act 1933
Children & Young Persons Act 1969
Crime & Disorder Act 1998
Criminal Justice Act 2003
Criminal Justice & Immigration Act 2008
Juvenile Offenders Act 1847
Poor Law Amendment Act 1834
Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000
Referral Orders (Amendment of Referral Conditions) Regulations 2003
Youth Justice & Criminal Evidence Act 1999