The Children's Society believes that whilst research such as the British Crime Survey is crucial in developing policy to promote children’s well-being, it is vital we establish the difference between crime and children just being ‘children’. Whilst serious incidents of bullying, violence or abusive behaviour by children or against them should not be condoned, we feel it is important not to demonise children for incidents that are often just part of growing up. Playground arguments and every day upsets are part of the experience of childhood and should be dealt with in a ‘restorative’ manner, whereby victims have the chance to demonstrate to offenders the real impact of their crime.
Our current youth justice system is sadly one of the most punitive in Europe. It has gone to some lengths to criminalise children, often for behaviour that is a normal part of their development, to our collective detriment not to mention the significant costs involved. The new Government has a real opportunity to turn this around by addressing first and foremost some of the very negative and intolerant attitudes that are often held towards children and young people, particularly the most vulnerable.