New survey of public attitudes to youth crime and youth justice
Press release issued: 4 November 2004
A new report published today by The Policy Press presents the findings from the first national survey of public attitudes to youth crime and youth justice in England and Wales.
The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation and carried out by criminologists at King’s College London and the University of Ottawa, shows that the public has a more pessimistic view of youth crime than is justified by official crime statistics:
- 75% of those polled believed that the number of young offenders had increased in the previous two years. Officially, the numbers of young offenders coming to police attention fell by 9% over the same period.
- 42% believed that half of all crimes were committed by young people. Official statistics suggest that the figure is more likely to be somewhere between 10 and 20%. In answer to the question ‘What makes you think that the number of young offenders has increased?’ 64% of respondents claimed that media reports had informed their views.
- Two thirds estimated the percentage of youth crime involving violence at over 40%. Police records of the numbers of young offenders being cautioned or convicted for violent crimes suggest a much lower figure of 20%.
While most people said that they wanted the youth justice system to be tougher on young offenders, many were supportive of restorative or rehabilitative approaches when presented with detail on specific cases:
- 42% thought that more discipline in schools was the most effective way of preventing youth crime. Tougher sentences (17%) and more policing (15%) were the next most popular options.
- There was strong support for education, treatment and work programmes for young offenders in prison. 38% of respondents felt that, in the case of young offenders, the most important function of prison was to provide education or training. For adult offenders punishment was its most important function (26% of respondents).
- While most people surveyed held a negative view of youth courts – only about 1 in 10 rated the youth courts as doing a good or excellent job and 7 out of 10 thought that sentences were too lenient – there was strong support for non-custodial options when fuller personal details about offenders were supplied.
Co-author of the report Mike Hough said: “This report highlights that while most people are demonstrably ill informed about youth crime and youth justice issues, there is genuine support for new approaches to sentencing young offenders. Like sentencers, the public wants offenders to apologise, accept responsibility, express remorse and to translate this emotion into some form of practical reparation for the victim. The practicalities of putting viable reparative schemes into effect are challenging, but the potential of such schemes is obvious.”
Youth crime and youth justice: Public opinion in England and Wales by Mike Hough and Julian V. Roberts is published by The Policy Press on 4 November 2004. It is available from Marston Book Services, Tel: 01235 465500, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Price £14.99 (plus £2. 75 p&p).
The findings of the report will be discussed at a seminar presentation by the author at the Annual Youth Justice Convention, Hilton London Metropole, London W2 on Thursday, 4 November. For more information about the conference, please visit www.neilstewartassociates.co.uk
Mike Hough is Professor of Criminal Policy and Director of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, School of Law, King's College London. Julian V. Roberts is Professor of Criminology and University Research Chair at the University of Ottawa.
The Policy Press is a not-for-profit, editorially independent publisher located at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Bristol.