In the evening news tonight, the Government’s response to the increase in metal theft was featured as a news item. Police powers ought to be increased so they can shut down naughty metal yards. I see.
Metal theft is bad. Yes, I understand that. Metal theft causes a great deal of inconvenience. Yep, I definitely understand that, I spend a lot of my life on trains.
We should do something about metal theft. Yep, alright, fine.
But what about the news
In the last week two young offenders have committed suicide in Young Offenders Institutions.
Jake Hardy, 17 years old, died on Tuesday. Alex Kelly, 15 years old, died on Wednesday.
I care that they died. I expect the Government to care that they died. They died whilst in the care of the state.
All the prison service have announced is an investigation. An investigation that they will not even carry out you must remember.
What remedial measures are the Government putting in place? Is funding going to be increased for YOIs? Are the Government going to ask the Church, the Samaritans or Childline to help? Are Prison Governors going to be given extra resources to ensure that more prison staff are available to watch children on suicide watch more closely?
I don’t know either boy
Even if I did, I couldn’t tell you. I know HMP Cookham Wood, it started life as an adult prison. It wasn’t purpose built for young people.
This was written by a victim of Alex Kelly’s on the Kent Online website:
I am sorry that this young man has been let down by so many, mainly, ‘HappyFeet,’ his parents in the first place. This young man was a very troubled individual when I first met him five years ago. He was let down by his parents,his foster parents, and the social services.
I know why he was inside and he caused a lot of people a lot of trouble and expense by his actions. I was a victim of these actions but once again I say I am so sorry he felt that there was only one way out to deal with his problems. I have no sympathy whatsoever with his family because they were the reason he was were he was.
Alex Kelly was 15 years old and was locked up for burglary and theft. He will have failed to engage with youth offending if he was locked up at that age. But it doesn’t sound as though anyone has ever tried to engage with him. He was placed in custody for acquisitive offences, offences which inconvenience (but do not necessarily hurt victims).
Locking up the 15 year old boy killed him. Sentencing policy of this country killed a 15 year old.
Shouldering the blame
A 15 year old boy can make his own decisions. No doubt he made several bad decisions. He was held criminally liable for those decisions. I don’t excuse him for that.
But, I excuse any child who isn’t being properly supported by society. If parents don’t bring him up, then society’s responsibility is to do so. If we as a society fail to bring him up properly then it’s our fault.
If a child has parents and commits an offence, those parents can face criminal sanction and cost.
If we fail to properly look after a child then they certainly ought not be locked up. Why? Because wider society must be to blame to some degree.
I’d rather my taxes
Were spent on investing in support networks for these children then inadequate prisons. Why should I throw good money after bad?
Start them early, then the only figures of stability in troubled young people’s lives will be prison officers. They deserve parents.
I don’t care about metal theft
Because two young men took their own lives this week. They took their lives whilst in the care of my country.
Metal theft inconvenienced my commute, it didn’t end anybody’s life.
It’s not fashionable to care about kids who commit crimes. Cameron has stepped back from hugging hoodies. But if we did care, if we did properly invest in them then perhaps they wouldn’t grow up to commit more serious crimes. Perhaps they would be able to contribute to society. Perhaps they wouldn’t be stealing metal…
We signed on the dotted line
The United Kingdom signed up to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it says clearly imprisonment of a child shall be used “only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.”
Let’s focus our youth justice system in this way. Let’s think about how we can avoiding locking kids up – they’ll be much less of an inconvenience in the long run.
I am yet as a barrister to lose a kid to custody, it’s something I’m very proud of.
As a wider company we ought to aim to constantly reduce young people coming into the criminal justice system and be proud when we reduce numbers of children in custody.