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Police and Juvenile Justice in England and America

NCJ Number
Bramshill Journal Volume: 1 Issue: 2 Dated: (Spring 1980) Pages: 5-15
N L Weiner
Date Published
11 pages
Juvenile justice and police work with juveniles in the United States and Great Britain are described in this British journal.
In the United States, each State has its own legal definition of juvenile delinquency, and the juvenile justice systems proceed from these definitions. The juvenile court is a victim of politics; the selection of judges is often dependent upon the whims of voters, and the protective intent of the courts may be neglected. Police work with juveniles also varies. In small departments patrolmen deal with juvenile offenders, and in larger ones officers may be assigned exclusively to youth problems. Although some departments aim at the prevention of juvenile delinquency, many see prevention as a nonpolice function. Officers who arrest juveniles may release them, perhaps with an official reprimand; refer them to social agencies; or send them to juvenile court. In the past few years, emphasis on removing juveniles from the justice system has increased. In Great Britain, the Children and Young Persons Act of 1969 distinguishes between two types of proceedings in juvenile court -- care proceedings and criminal proceedings -- and encourages the former while sharply restricting the latter. Under a care order, a child can be placed in a community home; a foster home; a hostel; or with friends, relatives, or parents. In criminal proceedings, the court can make the same disposition as in care proceedings, or it can decide for a conditional discharge, for a fine, for admittance to a day treatment center, or for further court processing to obtain commitment to a Borstal -- a custodial institution operated by the Prison Service. The act also helped define the role of the police with regard to juveniles: they are to consult with relevant agencies and individuals and screen cases for court; their task is not to counsel or supervise troubled or delinquent youth. Police may also caution juveniles who commit offenses. Under this procedure, young offenders and their parents are called to the police station and warned that the youth is being given a second chance. Most police forces have set up Juvenile Bureaus, and juvenile officers are assigned to handle juvenile affairs. At all stations, superintendents are responsible for deciding on the handling of all cases involving juveniles. On the whole, English police work with juveniles is more uniform than its American counterpart. This is the result of the single body of juvenile law and national standards for police administration in England. Related statutes are reviewed, and 80 references are included.