The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick has expressed fears for the wellbeing of some 16 and 17 year old boys held in custody. While the present and previous governments, together with child protection charities hypocritically call for greater protection of children, they also demand longer sentences and tougher release conditions for such ‘vulnerable’ children who break the law.
TheOpinionSite.org has previously drawn attention to the two-faced approach of politicians towards children, on the one hand calling for greater ‘child protection’ when politically convenient to do so whilst at other times ignoring the plight of many youngsters who, often unknowingly, have broken the law and are then locked away for years, miles from home and from their family and friends.
Mr Hardwick has just completed a report on Wetherby Young Offenders Institution. The prison houses about 340 boys, most aged between 16 and 17, and was inspected in January.
In a cynical denial of the Chief Inspector’s fears, prison officials ‘welcomed’ the report and said it “would help improve their work”.
Meanwhile, , the over-paid chief executive of the failing and much criticised National Offender Management Service (NOMS), Michael Spurr said:
“I am pleased that the chief inspector recognises the positive work being done at Wetherby with a challenging population of young people.
“The governor and her staff are rightly commended for their care and commitment and they will use the recommendations from the report to further improve and develop the work at Wetherby.”
Just days before the inspection, two boys had died elsewhere in custody.
It would seem that, like most officials involved with the UK criminal justice system, Mr Spurr is quite prepared to ignore bad news and instead pretend that all is well.
Appallingly, despite many calls for reform, the UK has the lowest age of criminal responsibility in Europe with children of just 10 years old frequently being subject to the full force of the criminal law.
On the one hand, UK governments have for 20 years used child protection as a political tool to generate cheap votes but still quietly continue to persecute children of all ages in order to generate favourable political support and to placate their MPs who like to appear to be ‘tough on crime’.
TheOpinionSite.org believes that such an approach is an insult to the principle of justice and fairness, not least because the government’s own research has shown that a person’s appreciation of socially acceptable inhibitions – the ability to decide whether or not an action is acceptable to society – is unlikely to be fully developed until they are in their early twenties.
The approach by the UK, in direct contradiction to the approach taken by other European countries, directly reflects policy in some parts of the US where children as young as 8 years old are routinely jailed, many – believe it or not – for alleged sexual offences.
Whilst the UK revels in short-lived and completely worthless Olympic glory, the disgusting and barbaric practice of jailing children continues unabated covered by a cloak of willing public ignorance.
In essence, so-called ‘Great’ Britain seems to have moved no further forward in this respect than where it was in the 18th century when children were frequently flogged for stealing a loaf of bread.
Our wonderful, ‘Modern’ Britain, certainly in regard to its attitude towards child offenders, is as primitive as ever and, once they have fallen foul of the law, shows no collective ability or willingness to deal with children as vulnerable individuals.
The Chief Inspector said:
“The greatest concern was the vulnerability of some of the young people held and the difficulty of holding them safely in a large establishment with a wide spread of population a long way from home.”
“Walking round the establishment, the vulnerability of some of the young people held was obvious.”
TheOpinionSite.org suggests that it is hypocrisy of the worst kind when Britain says that a child of 16 or 17 is not responsible enough to have sex if the government disapproves, opt out of education if they want or be allowed to vote yet, at 10 years old, any child is sufficiently responsible to be locked up for life.
This has been the case for decades in Britain yet such cases have usually received minimal publicity from the tabloids and even less concern from politicians and worse, the general public.
Britain locks up more people than any other country in the EU; it locks up more children than any other country in the whole of Europe; it insists on draconian restrictions being enforced on many young individuals (and older offenders) who have paid their debt to society and served their sentence in full yet are still treated as though they were still serving that very same sentence.
Cynically, the UK claims to be “…leading the world in child protection.”
Who claims this as the truth? Well, Lynn Featherstone MP, former and current Home Secretaries Jacqui Smith, David Blunkett and Theresa May and yes, even Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and David Cameron have all used this statement at one time or another when it has been politically convenient or necessary to do so.
TheOpinionSite.org however believes that with regard to children within the UK criminal justice system, the worst abusers of children are the politicians themselves who never cease to call for ‘tougher action’ on ‘feral’ children‘ out of control’ young people
The children and young people they are talking about are of course those that will not simply lie down and be kicked around by those in authority and who themselves are later so often found to have been lying, cheating or simply exploiting others for all they can get.
The children’s charities, notably the NSPCC, Kidscape and ECPAT have little or nothing to say when it comes to the protection of children in custody, preferring instead to ignore the problem of various types of abuse in prisons and critically, the worst abuse of placing children in custody in the first place.
Like it or not, the facts show that Britain is still a barbaric nation in so many ways and has changed very little over the last 300 years in its approach to young criminals, older offenders and in the manner in which politicians from all parties use Law and Order as a political tool to generate tacky publicity and to further their own promotional opportunities within party ranks.
If Britain really wants to ‘lead the world’ in child protection, a good place for it to start would be by not locking them up and wrecking their lives from the age of 10 years old and onwards.
TheOpinionSite.org believes that if Britain wants children to be nothing more than political pawns, supposedly ‘vulnerable’ one day whilst being branded ‘criminal’ the next, the legacy of a culture based on punishment rather than compassion will ultimately destroy the country.
Keep kicking a puppy and one day when it is older, it will bite you.
Nick Hardwick said, “All these boys were receiving good attention and care, but you feared for them all.”
If that is true, if he really ‘feared for them all’, maybe he should make his feelings clear to those who make our laws and those who milk the child protection system for all it’s worth.
That is, the greedy, selfish, self-serving hypocrites in Parliament together with the equally self-serving executives in charities that purport to ‘protect’ children when in reality and for the sake of making money, they are exploiting and destroying youngsters as soon as they step off the ever narrower path upon which the British people are expected to walk from the moment that they are born.
All prisons are inspected and reports on those institutions gravitate to NOMS, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office where they are largely ignored.
If the government really wants to protect children, it should either try treating them as such instead of criminalising them at the very first opportunity or else realise that kids today are not the same as they were 50 years ago and never will be, even though that is very much what the government – and many of the public – might want to believe.
(Discuss this in our Forum)