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Youth Justice in Great Britain

Bottoms, Anthony
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) Crime and Justice. 31: 21-183.

The English and Scottish youth justice systems share a commitment to preventive as opposed to retributive goals, but pursue them in sharply contrasting ways. In Scotland, a unified welfare-based system, committed to the prevention of harm to children, encompasses children who offend and children in social jeopardy. It uniquely and radically separates functions between the courts as factual and legal arbiters and children’s hearings as treatment tribunals. A correctionalist system, committed to the prevention of offending, has emerged in England. It repudiates earlier views that young offenders should be left to “grow out of crime” with minimal state intervention. Subsidiary goals include responsibilization (of offenders and parents), reparation, and case-processing efficiency. It is characterized by much institutional innovation, including introduction of multiagency youth offending teams. This “joined up” approach stops short of encompassing “care” and “offense” cases within the same jurisdiction as Scotland does. The systems’ philosophical differences are reflected in many contrasting operational practices. Political devolution in Scotland has introduced turbulence into the Scottish system; that and the newness of the English system make it difficult to predict future developments. Author’s abstract.


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