Friday, 4 September 2015

Unnecessary criminalisation

The recently published National Police Chiefs Council’s (NPCC’s) National Strategy for Policing Childrenand Young People is a step in the right direction. But there is still much to do to reduce the powerful forces that seem to conspire to criminalise some children and young people.  It was only last month that I drew attention to two reports that provided concrete examples of how this happens.

I couldn’t help noticing that the NPCC’s report has a foreword by Deputy Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney. She was also on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme yesterday, where she seemed to me to equivocate rather too much over the behaviour of a police force which thought it was a good idea to criminalise a 14 year-old boy who had unwisely ‘sexted’ a picture of himself with no clothes on. Apparently the record of his ‘crime’ could be kept on file for years and might influence his ability to find certain kinds of work in the future.

The idea that the tentacles of the criminal law, and its bureaucracy, should extend into schools and homes to regulate behaviour which is perhaps not wise or discreet, but which hurts nobody, must be tackled head on. Children and young people who have data of this sort stored against them can face a blighted future. We must all be prepared to condemn unequivocally practices that result in the unnecessary criminalisation of children.