Juvenile delinquency has been on the rise in England in the recent times. In reference to Coleman and Moynihan (1996), delinquency is a violation of laws (usually by juveniles). However, there are many cases where the term 'delinquency' is used to refer to any kind of youthful misconduct. In the United States of America, 'status offences' refers to offenses that are committed by persons in a specific age category (p.164). More broadly, one might add that delinquency implies the notion of a fallen or subterranean character.

In order to understand why there are high numbers of children in custody in England today it is important to reassess the nature of construction of their childhood historically and also the path taken by their social, cultural and economical lives. Another important aspect that needs to be considered is the law of the country. Notably, there is an immense need to look at, and probably even modify the acts and punishments known for juvenile crime. Furthermore, another aspect that plays a vital role in the increase in rate of juvenile crime is the media. Importantly, the media is a great influential part in the life of a child, which can also have negative effects.

The first phase of a new life is childhood. It is the most delicate facet of one's existence. Note that at this stage in life, there is important nourishment that a child needs to be fed on; physically, emotionally and spiritually. Similarly if a child is not brought up with all the love, care, affection, discipline, etc., he or she might take a wrong path in life which may also lead to issues like crime. In this regard, the family has been long been blamed for juvenile delinquency. Family experiences contribute to mental illness, child abuse and sexual crimes. Reith lecturer Edmand Leach (1967) stated that 'Far from being the basis of good society, the family with its narrow privacy and tawdry secrets is the source of all our discontents' (Fletcher 1988, p.10). Therefore, research indicates that the family is among the greatest contributors to youth crimes.

There are different causes of youth crime that have been identified so far. Among these causes are; inadequate childcare (lack of a warm relationship, lack of stimulation, lack of attention, lack of discipline, lack of example, lack of permanence, lack of educational support), broken families, family sizes, peer groups and poverty. Arguably, parents who are unable to provide their children with constant affection, stimulation, consistent and fair discipline and good models of behavior, are not equipping them with the capacities to relate with others, to develop their educational and social skills, to cope with authority, and to form the kinds of values which tend to hold them back from illegal behavior (Holman 1995). On the other hand, Children whose lives are disrupted by separation from one or both parents, by frequent moves between different careers, by removal into public care, do not necessarily become delinquent. But they are at a greater risk than children whose lives are marked by stability.

The tightening laws have also contributed to the increased rate of children in custody in England. Essentially, the government of the United Kingdom has been working on different law mechanisms to ensure that crime is reduced within its societies. As a result, most children who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law have been netted and put in custody in order to reprimand them. On the other hand, one can also argue that there is an exaggerated figure on the rate of youth crime in the United Kingdom. In this regard, the mass media reported negative information on the youth than it was necessary. Similarly, the figures on the rate of children in custody were inflated by the mass media. Whereas these figures were critical to policymakers and the public at large, they were capable of causing the young people to commit crime. The table below shows how the media (in this case newspaper) talks about the youth today. With these kinds of articles the media not only exaggerates about the youth crime rate but also leads to a negative influence on others.

Newspaper articles about young people





Base number of articles
















Source: MORI (1-7 August 2005)

The focus on crime in the United Kingdom and among most nations across the globe has been on adults. Apparently, adult are more likely to commit crime as compared to children and the young people in the society. However, the statistics that have been collected recently on crime indicate that the number of children who have found a home in custody after committing crime has increased tremendously. According to Nacro (2009), while the number of young people aged 15 - 17 years who received a reprimand, final warning or conviction for an indictable offence grew by 20% between 2003 and 2007, the equivalent increase for younger children aged 10 - 14 years was 31% as opposed to 3% between 1988-2002 (Nacro 2007). Furthermore, there have been arguments that young people and children commit low level crimes.

It is also important to mention the fact that offense and crime among children may be contributed by some factors in the society. For instance, most of the children who were incarcerated in the United Kingdom mentioned that they had been abused prior to being put into custody. According to Day, Hibbert & Cadman (2008, p.6), A significant number of the studies reviewed, from the UK and elsewhere, indicate that anywhere between 33% and 92% of children in custody had experienced some form of maltreatment, and the figure in relation to sexual abuse among girls in custody was particularly noticeable. In this regard, there is a correlation between serious and ongoing abuse and serious offending among children. It is also important to mention that the government has developed intervention measures to improve on its approach towards dealing with crime among children in the United Kingdom.

Percentage of Custodial Sentences


Merthyr Tydfil - 14 custodial sentences, 111 convictions


Liverpool - 156 custodial sentences, 1,321 convictions


Ealing - 55 custodial sentences, 495 convictions


Leeds - 229 custodial sentences, 2,162 convictions


Dorset - 10 custodial sentences, 540 convictions


Buckinghamshire - 9 custodial sentences, 469 convictions


Newcastle - 32 custodial sentences, 1,494 convictions

To begin with, programs such as Youth Justice focus on factors that affect the education, development, upbringing and protection of young people especially from abuse or exploitation; highlighting on training, personal development and access to justice as well as other public services. The Youth Justice System (YJS) rests on the same broad tenets, structures and general laws as the adult Criminal Justice System (CJS), with analogous approaches to anti social behavior through with many special provision, powers and variations. The Youth Offending Panel (YOP) is a local statutory panel which is responsible for devising an action plan in relation to a juvenile referred to it by the youth court (Gibson 2009, p.180).

Following the increasing numbers of children held in Custody in the UK, notably there have been several causes that have been attributed to the increase. As such, the upbringing of the children, environment and the nature of the law within the country has been associated with the number of juveniles in custody. As a matter of fact, the number of juveniles in custody has been attributed to the causes of poverty. In this sense, poverty has to do with the deprivation of the social amenities. As well, lack of food, education and other basic needs may contribute to children's anti-social behavior leading to their engagement in issues of stealing and other related criminal behaviors.

 Furthermore if children are not in education, they end up being idle and as a consequence, the only option for them becomes their engagement in crime and drug abuse, an aspect that drives them into the hands of the police and thus they end up in custody. In this context, UK has been labeled amongst the places in the western world whereby child poverty is prevalent. This is attributed to the fact that there are many children from homes whereby the households are below poverty line. This is to suggest that it is not easy for such households to provide their children with good care, education and equally important feed them.

Arguably, amongst such children theft is very high. According to Narco (2009), the reported crimes by youths mostly take in offenses like theft among others with a very small percentage committing serious crimes. For instance, it was found that in 2007 theft, burglary, fraud or forgery, criminal damage and handling stolen goods were mostly committed by the young people (Narco 2009, p.4). These kinds of offenses are mostly driven by issues of poverty.

Given that poverty is eminent in UK, it is important to state that the possibility of children being unemployed due to lack job opportunities is inevitable. As well, children may not be able to access high social standards and as a result, they have to live in poor houses whereby they become vulnerable to illicit behaviors.

Accordingly, there is the aspect of children turning into drug abuse an aspect that is prohibited by the UK government. Income poverty is a common problem in UK and as such, it has been accompanied by expensive life in UK. Due to life being expensive together with low income, poverty is prevalent and as such it leads to many of the children responding by becoming drug abusers and in the larger perspective committing crime. Another point to note is that children belonging to immigrants live in poor conditions which facilitate them to commit crime.

In addition, children of the immigrants are targeted by the police due to institutional racism in the criminal Justice System. It is likely that the immigrant children will commit crime due to their poor conditions of living.  Poverty, when combined by the strict measures taken by the courts to curb the increased Youth delinquency, translates to increased numbers of youths being held in custody since it is unavoidable for them to commit crime due to the nature of their environment and the mode of upbringing.

At the same time, children from poor backgrounds long to have the things that they see in wealthy families. Given that they are incapacitated to have the same things, they opt to apply force in order that they may get them. So to speak, they find themselves in crime and as a result of the tightened law in England, they end up in custody (Muncie 2009). Usually, those individuals from poor families do not receive education and as a result, their chances of being employed are so few that they do not have income. Due to this, their children have developed a tendency to engage in crime as a means of survival along with abusing of drugs.

In connection to this point, it has been argued that the Youth Justice System in England has been associated with poor record of compliance with the UNCRC while neglecting the interests of children (Stationery Office &Great Britain: Parliament: Joint Committee on Human Rights 2009,p.30). Needless to say, the youth policy, legislation and practice have been revealed as to have some loopholes that neglect the best interests of children. Another thing to note is that children with learning disabilities, mental problems and those that commit non-violent crimes were found to be in custody (Stationery Office &Great Britain: Parliament: Joint Committee on Human Rights 2009, p.30). This has been associated with a misguided way of police handling juvenile offenders. A juvenile offender should not be taken to custody and as such, custody should be the last resort in this context by any court. Yet, most of the courts have been holding children in custody in order to meet the government sanction detection target.

Notably, ASBOs measures used on children has as well contributed to the increased number of juveniles in custody. Again in this context, children seeking asylum have been noted as to experience a great aspect of their rights being breached in the name of immigration control rather than considering the place of human rights (Muncie 2009). In line with this point, increased numbers of children in custody can be attributed to inadequate child care which entails the issues of discipline and educational support. Owing to this point, the children who face a limited child care, have a tendency to engage in unlawful behaviors that land them in custody.

Apart from this point, broken families have been associated with children committing crimes. As such, this is given to the point that children become internally displaced and as a result of the violence they witness between their parents, it is inevitable that they as well extent the violence which bring them into custody. Accordingly, the separation of the parents brings about the separation of the children which may lead to the children misbehaving and engaging in unwanted behaviors since there may be no one to discipline them. Broken families may lead to traumatic effect to the lives of children of which they often respond by engaging in crime. This is as a result of the stress they experience. They alleviate it by engaging in drugs for some and eventually they end up committing crimes. This potentially contributes to the increased numbers of children in custody. In relation to this point, peer pressure is a contributing factor to the increased numbers of children committing crime. In this way, if a child happens to be in a company of other children either taking drugs, abusing other children sexually and generally committing crime, it is inevitable that the child may be influenced to practice the same things his or her peers practice.

According to Nacro (2009), racial institutionalization has been pointed out as a main cause of the increased numbers of children in custody. Following this point, black or black British children have been pointed out as some of the offenders who are less likely to receive pre-court disposal and thus more likely to be held in custody. Arguably, in 2007/2008, black or black British children accounted for 3 percent of the general 10-17 population while on the other hand making 7 percent of those that had to be attended to by the Youth justice System (Nacro, 2009, p.5). Of them 14 percent received custodial sentence and as such this reflected that there was the issue of discrimination in the YJS.

 In relation to this point, UK public in the past revealed an increased concern over the youth delinquency which resulted to pressurization to impose tougher measures which are directed to both control criminal activities by young people and on the other hand curb behaviors which are perceived to be antisocial and threatening. In connection to this, England's policy responses have been associated with an aspect of carrying out a retribution and retaliatory. The increased number of juveniles in custody is closely associated with the imposition of the custodial sentences by courts rather than recorded increases in the number of juveniles committing crimes. Again in this context, detention of children in custody is has been associated with the fact that court powers to issue detention and training orders have been increased a factor that has contributed to more children being held in custody even when their crimes do not deserve.

Remarkably, youths who are likely to commit crime resulting to them being held in custody, have been pointed out as to either have family issues like breakups and domestic violence along with large sizes of family. Along with this point, lack of education has been associated with low income and poor conditions of living which translate to engagement in criminal acts. The factors of community makeup and the influences of the community along with personal factors have also been cited as sources of delinquent behavior

The growing number of children offenders in customer in the United Kingdom has raised alarming signals among people and the criminal justice system as a whole. In this respect, there has been an increased need to devise intervention measures to reverse this trend as well as prevent recidivism. Whereas most children have found themselves in custody, early intervention measures could have prevented this and in some cases, the gravity of the crime committed could have been controlled with proper measures in place. In this respect, there are different intervention measures that have been put in place to lessen the effect of crime among children and the youth in the society. Note that the high number of children in custody in England has been criticized by the UN Committee and by the Human Rights Commission (Stationery Office & Great Britain: Parliament: Joint Committee on Human Rights 2009, p.30).

One of the strategies that are currently used by the United Kingdom to cub the high rate of children in custody is the use of Anti-Social Behavior Order or ASBO. ASBO can be defined as a social order that was imposed on people who had shown some evidence of engaging in antisocial behavior in England, as a way of restricting them from committing further offense. Notably, an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) can be used against anyone who is 10 years of age or over and has behaved in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to someone or some people who do not live in their own household (Youth Justice Board 2011). When a child under the age of 10 years or a young person is given an ASBO, he or she is restricted from visiting certain places which may induce him or her to commit a crime. Failure to comply with the requirements of the ASBO would warrant for prosecution of the victim. In this regard therefore, the United Kingdom government has been able to avert some crime that could have been committed by children and the young people.

Rehabilitation of children offenders has also been enhanced in the United Kingdom as an intervention measure. In this regard, the children or rather young offenders who had completed their terms in custody were more likely to commit crime after being released from custody. Remarkably, most child offenders were unable to join the community and continue with their lives in a normal way. This was contributed by stereotypes against them from the general society and the inability to catch up with children and young people of their age. As a result of this, rehabilitating these kinds of offenders was vital to the government as a way of reducing crime in the society. In reference to Ministry of Justice (2010, p.24), the right way to improve public safety and reduce the number of victims is to reduce reoffending. Therefore, there are child programs that have been created in order to address the specific needs of children in custody as well as when they are released from custody back into the society (Davis & McMahon 2007, p.95-96). Similar programs include community sentencing which reduced offending by a substantive margin. These programs were more effective but less costly.

The rate of children in custody in England has been rising at a very high rate. Whereas these rates were recorded among the young people towards the end of the 20th century, the beginning of the 21st century has recorded an increased number of children who commit crime and as a result are put in custody. In consistent with this, there are major causes of the rising rates of crime among children that have been identified. These include poverty issues, peer pressure among children and the young people, poor parenting, and stringent national laws that are currently being implemented to cub crime in the society.

In consistent with this, there are different intervention measures that have been implemented to ensure that the rate of children who commit crime is reduced as well as reducing recidivism. Note that the research that had been carried out found out that most children and young people who were incarcerated committed an offense within two years after being released from custody. Therefore, implementing these intervention programs and strategies have proved to be effective, especially in deterring children and the young people from committing crime and rehabilitating those who have been convicted of crime offenses.

Research indicates that most children who committed crime had a background that was characterized by poor parenting at one point or the other in their lives. For instance, most parents concentrated much on their work and careers while giving less attention to their own children. As a result of this, most children found themselves under the care of housemaids and relatives who did not care much about the social, physical, character and emotional development of these children. In this respect, the government should reexamine its laws and regulations regarding work and work leaves in order to give as much time as possible to parent so that they can care for their children. Furthermore, parents need to be enlightened and encouraged to spend more time with their children as this would serve as an opportunity to teach them good morals and solve problems that are detected among these children at an early stage before they become chronic.

Similarly, the government intervention should address prevention needs of these problems rather than trying to solve them when they are at a chronic stage. In consistent with this, there is need to introduce programs that would enlighten children on the importance of observing the laws while at the same time avoiding issues that would involve them in these crimes. Therefore, programs that target schools and other educational institutions such as drug prevention programs, etc should be enhanced since they are powerful intervention and prevention tools of crime.

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