Youth justice chief's plea for offenders

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Young offenders on community service who help clean up neighbourhoods should have their names commemorated on special plaques, according to the Government's youth justice chief.

Young offenders on community service who help clean up neighbourhoods should have their names commemorated on special plaques, according to the Government's youth justice chief.

Rod Morgan, who chairs the Youth Justice Board, said the public should be made aware of the "very valuable" work that young offenders carry out. In an interview with this paper, he said public confidence needed to be restored by showing people the good work that young offenders carried out.

Mr Morgan, a former chief inspector of probation for England and Wales, said: "I think that when a graveyard is cleaned up or children's playground built or a public swimming pool renovated, we ought to put up a plaque on the building, on the playground, on the graveyard, saying that it's now in fine order because offenders have cleaned it up."

He criticised measures outlined last week by the Government to introduce uniforms for those carrying out community punishments.

"I don't believe that anyone learns lessons from being humiliated. It's like bringing back a version of the stocks. We need to do a bit of thinking before we propose what appear to be short-term fixes.

"If we started dressing young children in a uniform, you would soon find the fashion industry would clone it and it would become a fashion item," Mr Morgan said.

His comments follow widespread calls for a crackdown on Britain's yobs, which have grown after a spate of violent and unprovoked attacks, including one on a father of four who suffered serious head injuries on Thursday night.

George Watson, aged 46, is fighting for his life after a brutal attack by a gang of five youths outside a Chinese take-away in North Shields. In another incident, police are hunting youths who hurled a lump of wood through the windscreen of a car taking women to a funeral in Cheshire on Wednesday. Earlier this month, Tony Blair called for people to show "more respect" towards others and their communities. This followed a ban on hooded tops by the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, a move praised by ministers.

A report by Kings College London, published next month by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, will say that many people attribute antisocial behaviour to a decline in moral standards, but two-thirds favour preventative action over tough responses.

Mr Morgan said the Youth Justice Board found there was no evidence that antisocial behaviour among young people was growing. He cautioned against increasingly draconian punishments that would lead to an increase in children in custody and create new "career criminals".