Examining The Disposals In The Criminal Justice System Criminology Essay

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The assignment will discuss the disposals available to Maya within the criminal justice system that can be acted upon in response to the related offence in the given case study. Legislation and policies will be identified from key aspects of Maya's offending history, offering different perspectives on criminal behaviour. Appropriate interventions will also be considered as well as the effectiveness of these disposals in addressing offending behaviour. Critical assessment of the youth justice process and law enforcement will highlight race and gender issues within the system. The essay title will OUTLINE a programme of intervention, to support Maya in reducing her disrupting behaviour, the essay will also analyse three fundamentals, assessment, intervention and evaluation, which are essential elements to incorporate, when creating such a programme.

Maya is a 13 year old young black female who has recently been arrested and charged with assault on another female. This is not Maya's first offence, previously Maya was in possession of a stolen credit card (however this does not indicate the card was stolen by Maya herself) and involved with shoplifting, Maya was given a final warning (in accordance with the Crime And Disorder Act 1998, (s65) and a referral order WHICH MAYA SUCCESSFULL COMPLETED OVER A 3 MONTH PERIOD (introduced by the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999) for another assault. Additionally her relationship with her family seems to be hostile at present. There ARE indicationS of domestic violence and lack of parental responsibility, with Maya spending ample PERIODS OF time away from home. Her school attendance is POOR AND not consistent, with gaps of unauthorised absence.

The offending history of Maya's situation highlighted issues of the seriousness of the offence, and unauthorised absences from school. As (Pitts, 1990) states, 'truancy brings many young people into the criminal justice system'. Maya's possible exclusion from school and lack of education can lead to further exclusion from the 'norm' of society. This emphasises a strong correlation between offending and non participation of schooling. The lack of parental responsibility and the possibility of domestic violence does have an impact on Maya OFFENDING BEHAVIOUR, WHICH CAN BE EXPLAINED BY THE SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY. MAYA behaviour may be learned through association. For example if Maya has been subjected to domestic violence, she may imitate this anti social behaviour AND the influence of a gang WHERE DRINK IS PREVALENT HELPS Maya to fit in having a direct affect ON her criminal BEHAVIOUR (Wilson, Ruch et al, 2008). Other key components to take into consideration are gender, age and class.

There are many theories on the causes of crime. However it is first important to determine what is crime? And what people perceive to be criminal behaviour. The views and concerns of the public and media seem to influence the way that the professionals in the criminal justice process think about crime. Crime is behaviour which society disapproves of and can be described as criminal through its seriousness and unacceptability, it is an act or omission prescribed by law and punishable by the state through the criminal justice process. Societies images of crime tend to be associated with intentional physical harm, dishonesty, and theft often involving confrontation between offender and victim.

Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, police have the powers to arrest, question and detain Maya, however within this case Maya would need to have an appropriate parent or guardian present due to her age. If it is Maya's first time in court and a guilty plea is entered a referral will be made to the Youth Offending Panel, where its primary aim is to reduce offending.

Article 37(b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) explicitly states that "the arrest, detention and imprisonment of a child shall be used only as a measure of last resort, and for the shortest appropriate period of time."


Firstly it is necessary to carry out an assessment on Maya, which are a continual and dynamic process, encompassing the collected works and understanding of Maya's criminogenic needs, using the development of a new structured assessment tool such as Asset which uses one of its 13 component core assessments before intervention is carried out. (Youth Justice Board, 2003) The aim of Asset is to provide a holistic assessment to young offenders identifying negative factors that contribute to criminal behaviour, as well as looking at positive factors that motivate the offender, anticipated by the youth justice board. (Youth Justice Board, 2003). Maya's future development will be determined by the type of intervention and level of risk she poses to re-offending. (Angus, Dugmore, Pickford, 2006). Previous offences and offending behaviour is used to predict risk of future offending, taking into account socio-economic factors such a schooling and truancy, risk to education, family life and living arrangements. Having briefed Asset it would be appropriate to complete the component 'What do YOU think' with Maya. As this would include her in making plans , acknowledging behaviour. This may also provide the basis for build communication between worker and offender. (mention gscc codes of practice)

Assessments play a major part in social work in relation to Youth Justice, children and families; assessment frameworks give an overall analysis of the relations within the family structure. When assessing all information concerning Maya, concerns are addressed most effectively in an Action Plan Order to ascertain her needs. The Action Plan Order 'No More Excuses' introduced in (1997) and implemented in 2000, combines punishment, rehabilitation and reparation making community sentences more effective. Placing the offender under supervision within the recommendation of this order includes anger management, counselling sessions, incorporating one to one support, issues with self esteem and trust would be suggested. Taking into account the recommendations for leisure time, directed productive activities may provide a platform to peer appropriate relationships. In addition, victim awareness and facing up to her responsibilities and offending behaviour may lead to reparation offering direct mediation with the victim.

The aim of the Action Plan Order is to assist rather than punish the offending behaviour. Recommendations may include Maya's parents being volunteered for a parenting order. A Parenting order would be beneficial to both parents; child and multi agencies improving communication, providing structure for the family, adaptable to individual needs, helping the parents feel empowered. Due to there neglectful parental responsibilities and long working hours, the courts may impose this order under s8 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1989. The courts may also impose specific conditions to the parenting order for example escort the child to school, the offer of a mentoring programme Maya and ensuring there's a responsible adult at home in the evening. Parenting programmes have also been established to address different types of parenting issues, not just offending behaviour, and improved parenting skills will reduce the risk of poor parenting whilst also promoting and reinforcing family relationships. (Brown, Giller and Stephenson, 2007).

The case study may be linked to the criminological term 'strain theory' WHICH consideRS MertonS CRIME THEORY THAT the strain appears when the dream could not be achieved through legitimate means, which may pressurise individuals toward crime and delinquency. Jacobs, (2006, p73-75) agrees that crime and delinquency could increase where individuals did not have the means to achieve defined goals. CONSIDERING THE case study the 'strain' maybe due to frustration, WHICH Merton specifies AS one of the likely CRIMINOLOGICAL TRAITS being that of theft.

Agnew, Brezina, Wright, & Cullen (2002) SAY that PERSONAL traits IN THE individual MAY result in their reaction to strain, AND THEN IT IS THESE STRAIN that turn THE INDIVIDUAL towards delinquency and crime as a way to relieve the PRESSURE that the strain has brought into their life. (Agnew et al., 2002) SUGGESTS major traits associated with individual strain are those traits of constraint and negative emotional anxiety which lead the individual to such emotions as anger and delinquency THEN crime to relieve this anger.

It could therefore be argued that ineffective parenting is the associated cause to youth crime and therefore associated with family breakdown and dysfunctional families.' Muncie, J (1999)

Also considering the effects of CRIME ON labelling THEORIES, (Jacobs, 2006, p95) has suggested a notion of primary and secondary deviation: primary deviation being the largely un-noticed acts that occur in everyday society with secondary deviation pointing to those acts identified or reacted to by society and therefore labelled as deviant. It is generally recognised that this labelling can AFFECT individuals causing them to seek out others, for example in a gang, FOR support and REINFORCEMENT OF their behaviour leading to an increase or strengthening of SECONDARY DEVIATION.

This concept is a component of social reaction. Labelling theory claims that catching and punishing offender 'labels' and stigmatises them as criminals. They may then find society and lawful opportunities closed to them, and their self-image may become one of a deviant. This process then in turn makes it more difficult for them to conform to the norms of society (Cavadino & Dignon, 1997).

'Children from poorer families are likely to offend because they are less able to achieve their goals legally and because they value some goals especially highly e.g. excitement' Farrington (1994).

Social learning theory offers the perspective that in a society that contains sub-cultures which encourage illegal activities, criminal behaviour is learned within these primary groups (Giddens, 1997). As Mcguire and Priestly (1985) suggest, social learning theory emphasises the importance of appropriate 'models' in order for the individual to acquire basic attitude and behaviour norms. Learning theory refers to actions and beliefs that a person has, either through direct imitation or as a conditioned response to their environment (Roshier, 1989). Differential association suggests that we receive cues from our primary groups and environment on acceptable behaviour. This includes definitions both favourable and unfavourable to the acquisition of the motives for, and techniques to commit crime. If there are more favourable than unfavourable then a person will commit crime (Taylor et al 1973). Behaviour can be explained as a response to imitation to environmental stimuli.

'Sutherland's central hypothesis was that crime is not caused by personality or environment, but is the product of learning and it is learnt just as any other behavior is learnt.'  Muncie, J (1999)

When these theories are applied to Maya's circumstances they may help explain her initial reasons for offending. It is clear that Maya has underlying concern, such as family parental neglect, no sense of discipline, lack of supervision, truancy from school, the relationship with her peers no constructive use of her leisure time with no real sense of recognised goals. Maya's offending behaviour appears to be a symptom of her anger and anxiety at life experiences with some elements of attention seeking. Further impacting on the extent to which Maya is excluded from society, Lilly et al (1998) suggests stigmatised people excluded from pro-social relationships often bond with people of a similar status i.e. the deviant underclass.

This patriarchal stereotypical view is gender specific and would construe Maya's mother responsible for her offending behaviour due to her poor parenting skills. Howe, Dooley and Hinings, (1999) suggest children who experience controlling strategies such as avoidance or aggression resulting in neglect or rejection can develop a disorganised attachment, interpersonal and behavioural problems, such as bullying, bossiness and aggression, projecting their anger and blame onto others. They develop a lack of fear and an anxious need to control rather than be controlled, to attack rather than be attacked. (Hanmer and Stratham, 1988/1999) with the father remaining virtually invisible which appears to be the case within this family. Where family influence is weak, peer influence can take over.

Young people can be seen as vulnerable members of society, in particular ethnic minorities when faced with the criminal justice system. There is a tendency for black & Asian communities to receive poor and derogatory treatment by the police & justice system. (Chigwada-Bailey1997, p11) argues that race, gender and class are factors that potentially create unequal treatment in the criminal justice process. (Rice 1990, p57) refers to this as the triple oppression of race, class & gender. Because black criminology focused on black men while feminist criminology focused on white women, social, cultural and economic experiences of black women were overlooked.

Low wages, childbirth, early return to work, all these elements provide a different context for social life. Rice also states black girls' strength, independence, resilience and perseverance are part of sub cultural values necessary in the face of racist and sex segregated labour market.

At one stage, young girls were protected from violent conduct from men but now young females are being categorised in the same way and subjected to the same forms of management. ." (Worrall 2004) In her article Worrall states that "the number of female juvenile found guilty or formally cautioned in England and Wales has not risen overall since 1994" (figures from Home office, 2000). (Worrall 2001) What has changed is the rate of cautioning: "from 100 to 96 percent for 10-11 year olds; from 94-87 per cent for 12-14 year olds; and from 77-64 percent for 15-17 year olds"(Worrall 2001). "Gender is one of the most certain predictors of offending. Young women are a very low risk when it comes to predicting criminal offences. If there are some increases in the amount of girls convicted of violence it may be because of a change in the justice system rather than any great increase in amounts of violence. Girls and violence used to be considered low-risk to warrant attention but now fewer girls are getting away with just a caution, instead they are appearing in court and being sentenced. This change has caused quite an affect on the statistics for offending. Even though there are less found guilty or cautioned in 1999 than 1994 (14,500 and 16,200 respectively) the rates in custody have doubled from 3% to 6%.

On of the major risk factors that increase the chances of young people committing crimes, are troubled home life which makes the feel insecure, poor achievement at school, truancy, being excluded from school, drug and alcohol misuse, mental illness, not forgetting deprivation such as poor housing. The interaction among youth and society is affected by how society reacts to the media on how it represents the youth. Parental responsibility is also at the forefront of youths and anti social behaviour.



The current political trend is to target children and young people. Getting 'tough on crime' and antisocial behaviour means use of civil injunctions, policies designed to be tough on both the causes of crime and crime itself. However, there is very little evidence to suggest these policies are tackling the causes; particularly ASBO's that serves to further exclude communities already marginalised by poverty and unemployment. The problem with the welfare system lies in both its merit and its lack of insight. Presumptions are made that the welfare of a child's family background often leads to criminal acts and social delinquency soon resulting in exclusion from their families. (O'Conner, 1997) What this is trying to achieve is an attempt to 'rehabilitate' young offenders, the system it seems is stigmatising the youth it is trying to protect from delinquency. (Hogg and Brown, 1998)

Criminal and anti social behaviour by young people led to the recent changes within the youth justice system. The age to which a child can be considered criminally responsible was reduced from age 14 to age 10, compared to many other European countries with the highest age being 18 in Belgium. The of age of criminal responsibility varies in different European countries, as previously stated, to be responsible for a criminal act the person responsible must understand what they are doing is wrong. For example the murder case of James Bulger in 1993. The psychiatrist concluded that they did have an understanding of what they had done was wrong, (the boys covered the body with branches as they were aware of their impending punishment) which allowed them to be tried for murder. Can young people as young as 10 be responsible for their actions, do they know what they are doing and do they understand the consequences they may encounter because of their behaviour. Youth crime in England and Wales has become the primary focus of reform in youth justice law, policy and practice. Youth criminal behaviour provided the indicator resulting in moral panic amongst communities which lead to policy changes. (Baldock et al 1999, pg 536-537). The James Bulger case influenced changes to the age of criminal responsibility.

The introduction of a Parenting Order is to make parents of antisocial youths take responsibility for their children. However this can be seen as criminalising parents by association if they have not actually committed a crime.

The parenting Order, as Article 7 of the Human Rights Act (no punishment without law) maybe violated by the use of broad and general requirements specified under section 8 (4) (a) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

(Brown et al, 2007, pg 144)

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 suggests that local authorities, social services, probation committees, police authorities and health authorities, must deliver Youth Justice Services in partnership with Youth Offending Teams. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 also introduced a national Youth Justice Board (YJB) to establish multi-agency Youth Offending Teams. Major improvement of the youth justice system has been a central part of New Labour's agenda to reduce offending by children and young people, to build safer communities and to tackle social exclusion. Labour came into power in 1995 proposing to 'get tough' on youth crime and the 'cause's crime. The current legal framework for youth justice is the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. 'Misspent Youth' outlined proposals to make the Youth Justice System more efficient. This was met by 'No More Excuses' for Government programmes of improvement for the youth justice system. Farrington (2001, p182) suggests that logically, it must be better to prevent offending by intervening early in life than to wait until someone has committed many offences and then intervene.

Primary crime prevention refers to strategies aiming to prevent crime before it happens and involves all the social, physical and other strategies to prevent crime. Secondary crime prevention identifies 'at risk' people and situations. It involves policies which target people considered to be at risk of becoming offenders- such as young people in areas known for high levels of offending; or situations where crime is likely to occur. Tertiary crime prevention deals with known criminals and crime situations. It aims to prevent those already convicted from continuing with their criminal careers, mainly through the sentences of the court.

Early intervention focuses on those at risk and not necessarily those in need. The focus is on 'What Works'. Early interventions are aimed at those who are subjected to reprimands, final warnings and referral orders. The aim is to intervene at early stages of their involvement with the criminal justice system, reducing the risk of further offending. Young people who are targeted are those already known to the system as well as other family members associated with offenders. The question is, are we not labelling those who have not entered the criminal justice system; one has to be sure not to encourage offending. (www.yjboard.gov.uk)

One of the most recent government policies that stress the importance of association between agencies is the White paper 'Every Child Matters' (2003). Four key elements emphasised in the 2003 Green paper Every Child Matters, they were to increase the focus on supporting families and carers, ensuring necessary intervention takes place before crisis point and protecting children from falling through the social net. (www.everychildmatters.co.uk). There was a clear concern that the absence of partnership between social services, education and the health service played a huge part in the failure protect vulnerable children. A significant part within the White paper focuses entirely on 'early intervention' which aims to improve information sharing between agencies and to create multi disciplinary teams. The development of children's social problems stemmed from their disadvantaged backgrounds and surroundings which are listed in the 2003 Green Paper Every Child Matters. Children's services aimed for every child, whatever their background or their circumstances, to have the support they need to be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being. (www.everychildmatters.co.uk)

Interventions such as sure start programmes and youth inclusion programmes aimed at children and families most at risk from poverty, crime and anti social behaviour also increased support for children from ethnic minority backgrounds. They provide a minimal intervention as they are funded annually by the youth justice board through YOT prevention grants. These and other programmes aim to target deprived areas and provide some evidence of New Labour's progressive steps and their recognition of the links between crime and deprivation. (http://www.yjb.gov.uk/en-gb/practitioners/Prevention/YIP/)

The criminal law in our society shifts according to the changes in public attitudes. Changes in the public's tolerance of activities lead to campaigns to criminalise some behaviour and decriminalise others. If the criminal law didn't reflect public morality and concerns, the public would have little regard for the law; it would lose its legitimacy. It would also be seen as oppressive, as an instrument of social control and political domination.

Since 'New Labour' came to government in 1997, there has been a huge emphasis on collaboration between agencies and better co ordination within local government services to enable every young person to reach their potential. The importance of multi agency work has been at the forefront of recent government initiatives with respect to young people. Marlow and Pitts (1998) describe multi agency relations as…

"The coming together of various agencies, in relation to a given problem, without this significantly affecting or transforming the work they do. The same tasks are conducted in co operation with others" (1998, pg 117)

Individual and social are two main points in the causes of crimes. In individual explanation, family and personal causes are considered and it is defined as internal factors. Classical theory believe crime is a result of choice. People were thought to have free will so if they committed crimes. It was classed as an internal factor of an individual. External factors, which are also social explanation, are including government problems and society problems. Positivists such as Durkeheim believe that human behaviour is determined by external factors and sociologist should not be concerned with the internal feelings and emotions of individuals we do not have free will. Both internal and external factors are important in analysing the causes of crimes: most offenders commit crime because of the external problems at the beginning. (Haralambos and Holborn, 2004)

Reduction in crime is a powerful selling point for the Government, The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and its policies, strive for success into reducing offending amongst young people. Their aim is to decriminalise young people by providing those who come into the criminal justice system with intervention programmes to minimise offending. The youth justice board and youth offending team are both aiming to deliver a multi component programme to aid prevention and increase effectiveness in tackling offending and reducing crime. Emphasised elements in both systems are the treatment and support of offenders by professional multi-skilled teams. Parents, carers and families have also been identified as having a key role in preventing problematic behaviour among young people.

Jock Young and John Lea (1993) argue that working-class and black youth turn to crime because of relative deprivation. There is an issue of concern as to why black people are over represented within the criminal justice system over their white counterparts. It is acknowledge that factors such as unemployment and low education achievement are prevalent amongst black offenders, which may place them at greater risk of re-offending. (Rahman, 2001). Black offenders are already at a disadvantage when faced with the criminal justice system as they are dominated by a white middle class bureaucracy. (Denny, 1992, p2) In comparison with their peers, they feel deprived in terms of education, jobs, income, standard of living, etc. moreover, they feel they have little power to change their situation. They may feel they are not heard. Overall they may feel marginalised (Chapman 2001, p147).

Children growing up in families that are abusive either towards the children or other parent or both often result in criminal behaviour, alongside children with low education levels or from poor backgrounds. Also, children who have experienced oppression or discrimination can grow up to feel worthless and believe that a life of crime is all they will succeed in.

Changes in legislation became apparent focusing on communication across agencies, to gain a whole picture of a young offender, through education, health, intervention when necessary and the intervention geared around 'children at risk'. Through media attention, public opinion influenced the change in policies and professional practice. What is needed is an improvement in communication amongst key services, good administrative procedures, managers and senior member's recognition of their public role, facilitating efficient and effective work, with Government policies and reforms being implemented, major organisational changes will enhance professional development hence accommodating the rapidly growing and changing role of the service provider. (James and Wilson, 1995)