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Frances Crook's blog · 19 Nov 2019

Why magistrates were wrong to imprison a child and allow him to be named

Frances Crook in front of office bookshelves

Magistrates were wrong to imprison a child of 14 and wrong to allow him to be named. The boy’s case was heard in a youth court last week and it has been reported widely, but for reasons that I will go on to explain, I am not sharing a link to the coverage.

Naming a child so that his identity and his photograph are splashed across the media means they will remain on the internet for decades to come, blighting any chance he will have of getting a job or moving on in his life.

Any awareness or understanding of desistance research would have informed the judge that ‘naming and shaming’ confirms offending identity and is counter-productive, particularly for children. An instructive review of the evidence on desistance was published on the Ministry of Justice website recently and I would have hoped that all sentencers would have taken the trouble to read it.

No one is saying that nothing should be done – but doing the wrong thing makes things worse

The idea that a child sent to a penal institution is going to have his life chances and behaviour improved by the experience is so bizarre as to be reckless. This lad is so young that he is likely to be sent to one of the three secure training centres, all of which have been places of violence and abuse. The majority of children released from penal incarceration continue getting into trouble with the law, so far from it being an instructive experience, it is a damnation.

This lad was being a nuisance and he and his family are desperately in need of help and support. No one is saying that nothing should be done. But doing the wrong thing makes things worse. This is the wrong thing and will make things worse.


  • Philip Belben says:

    Disclaimer: I am not familiar with this case – I came to the Howard League website for a different reason, and stumbled across this blog entry – but I feel compelled to comment.

    “Naming and shaming”? How can this possibly be part of the criminal justice system? This is totally crazy!

    Naming and shaming is a technique when someone _cannot_ be punished under the law. You publish their name so that the stigma of their being publically associated with their deeds causes them shame.

    To do this as part of criminal justice is absurd. To do this to a teenager, whose infamy on the internet will blight his whole career, is, as Jilly Bingham says, spiteful.

  • Jilly Bermingham says:

    Completely agree, when did we become an uncaring spiteful country.

    Justice should not just be about incarceration but reform to change the offenders behavior.

    What insensitive does he have to change when he will never be allowed to forget.

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