Saturday, May 28, 2005

Young, Gifted And Criminalised

Here's another reason why I don't envy the young but without yesterday's misty-eyed reverie about dodgy, pre-pubescent daydreams on the dodgems. You can read today's post without getting your hands sticky with candyfloss.

Back in the sixties I read a lot of predictions, both fictional and 'scientific', about how life would be in what is now 20 odd years ago, 1984. Penguin produced two books on the subject which I've still got somewhere. Everyone agreed that machines would do all the work, including housework, and we would all have more leisure than we knew what to do with.
Let's all do a collective hollow laugh.

The 'Big Brother' state was more often explored by fiction writers, including E.M. Forster long before Orwell. But I don't think anyone predicted that in the 21st century being young would be a crime.
You think I exaggerate? Well read this from yesterday's Guardian.
It's not ASBOs this time though God knows, they're bad enough. It's the blanket curfews imposed in some towns and cities which are now the subject of an appeal by a boy in Richmond, Surrey.
If you haven't time to read the article, these mean that anyone under 16 who is on the street after 9 pm is picked up by the police and taken to their parents' home, regardless of whether they've committed any crime. Visiting a friend's house, going to the cinema, going to the chip shop are all impossible unless accompanied by your parents.

This is the worst abuse of state power in modern British history. The world's oldest 'liberal democracy', and a Labour Government, has introduced an authoritarian measure that restricts and punishes an entire age group and a measure that would even raise eyebrows in a tyrannical banana republic.
Even without a Human Rights Act, this legislation breaches every principle of natural justice and the rule of law.
Would it be acceptable to forcibly remove law-abiding people from the streets simply because they were Black, Muslim, Jewish or Gay?
So why is it acceptable to do it to people on the basis of age, some of whom may be only one week short of the age at which they can legally marry?


Meanwhile, the first ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) has been given which, among other things, prevents a youth from wearing either a hoodie or a baseball cap.
The nature of ASBOs is such that, if he breached the order, he would go to prison.
To make it clear: he would go to prison for wearing a baseball cap.
Some of you may have a deep dislike of the ubiquitous baseball cap. I can understand that. Myself, I'm none too keen on people wearing check shirts, Barbours and green wellies who talk in loud, braying voices and drive Tamsin and Beccy to the gymkhana in a green Range Rover. But on balance I think I'd stop short of sticking them in the slammer for 5 years.
That, by the way, is the maximum sentence for breaching an ASBO, even though the offence itself may carry a non-custodial sentence.
The justification usually given is that hoodies and caps make it impossible to identify people on CCTV footage. But Ken Clarke's Fedora hat would have the same effect. And I'm sure my large black umbrella has hidden my face from many cameras on the streets.
It's clear that the youth in question was a menace in his neighbourhood and the criminal justice system had to deal with his behaviour. But for God's sake focus on the behaviour. Criminalising items of clothing just makes the law a laughing stock.


My elderly father was in a state of shock today that the posh yobs who invaded the House of Commons were given a conditional discharge. The inferences are so obvious and have already been made by others - if they'd been working class yobs in hoodies, if they'd been Muslim demonstators, etc, etc......
It certainly proves that the £20,000 a year to send a kid to Eton may not buy academic distinction if he's a thick little bastard but it might be a worthwhile investment if he later runs amok in the Mother of Parliaments.


One of the frequent bouts of hand-wringing this week about teenage pregnancies.
So let's remember that it was only a few months ago that the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, was very publicly trying to prove that he was the father of two of the children of a woman who was someone else's wife.
And a few years before that two successful lawyers, one of whom is the Prime Minister, told the world that their fourth child was totally unexpected and competely unplanned.
What is it about either birth control or abstinence that these people don't understand?


At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Graham said...

It's all very well banging on about human rights,but you have to admit that quite a sizable number of teenagers are just downright bad.
So if curfews and asbo's are not the answer what is.
I was no angel when I was a kid but some, not all of today's kids are a vicious bunch.
They have to be taught that actions have consequences.


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