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An Unsolvable Justice Problem?: Punishing Young People’s Sexual Violence

Brownlie, Julie
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) Journal of Law and Society . 30(4): 506-531.

The past decade has experienced renewed theoretical and applied debate concerning juvenile justice policy. Young offenders in the United Kingdom and beyond are increasingly diverted from the formal justice system. This is not true, however, of young sexual offenders. The article explores the tensions that exist within the juvenile justice system as a result of this paradox. Interrelated fears about the progressive nature of sexual offending and societal anxieties surrounding sex crimes converge to accentuate concerns regarding young sexual offenders. The first section of the article considers the emergence of the young sexual offender as a problematic category for society and, in particular, for the juvenile justice system. The second section explores several key issues in the traditional juvenile justice response to young sexual offenders. In particular the article examines issues of welfare, justice, risk, and the role of therapeutic professionals in the juvenile justice response to young sexual offenders. The third section considers the role of restorative justice responses to young sexual offenders, with a focus on arguments for and against the appropriateness and effectiveness of restorative justice approaches to sexual violence. The final section, relies on criminological, psychological, and sociological perspectives to argue that it is important to look at two perspectives in order to better understand the reaction provoked by young sexual offenders: the nature of sexual offending as discussed in the applied literature and the societal response to sexual offending in general, and to young sexual offenders in particular. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Referece Service,


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