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A British slogan of the early 90’s, often quoted in conservative tabloids or by angry, morally outraged protesters. Right wingers have often felt that the criminal system is too lenient; especially on young offenders.

During the 90’s reported youth crime increased. This trend was especially prevalent in inner city areas. Under UK law, a child under 6 can not be criminally liable for his or her actions. A child under 16 can only be prosecuted in juvenile court – this has a limited sentencing ability, compared to the adult criminal courts. For example, a juvenile court can not send a child to jail.

Many people think that the weaker juvenile penalties do not sufficiently discourage repeat offenders, and that under certain cases, juvenile offenders should be tried in adult courts and receive adult sentences. An example of this was the murder of baby James Bulger in 1993: Many felt that the two child murderers should have received “Adult Time” – i.e. a mandatory lifetime in prison.

Effectively, this means sentencing according to the severity of the crime and turning a blind eye to any mitigating circumstances.

There are others who think a more compassionate solution is best. There is evidence to suggest that the prison system is a university of crime – and that even the worst young offenders have a chance to develop and become a useful part of society.

I personally support this more liberal approach: The prison system allows us to deal with some of the symptoms of social problems without tackling the cause. It’s like sweeping dirt beneath a rug. I suggest that most young offenders are victims themselves.

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