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Punish and be damned: judicial discretion in juvenile courts: the welfare and punishment dichotomy in England/Wales and Scotland

Ravenscroft, Penelope Lynne (2011) Punish and be damned: judicial discretion in juvenile courts: the welfare and punishment dichotomy in England/Wales and Scotland. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Judicial discretion is at the heart of a humane criminal justice system, but the latitude exercisable in the UK juvenile courts allowed constructive treatment at one end of the spectrum and penal custody the other. Official acknowledgement of the different culpability of adult and juvenile offenders really began in the middle of the 19th century, and Parliament finally made provision early in the 20th century for this ‘welfare principle’, that reform and welfare rather than punishment were to guide judicial discretion in the decisions and conduct of juvenile criminal courts. This thesis offers an explanation for the varying emphasis given to this principle in England/Wales and Scotland, concentrating on the last 40 years of the 20th century. The lack of implementation of earlier reforms was confronted in two major reports, chaired by Kilbrandon in Scotland and Longford in England and Wales. Although they came to similar conclusions about the causes and the remedies for juvenile delinquency, and their subsequent legislation shared the same general philosophy, the implementation took diametrically different routes in the two jurisdictions. It is argued that deep-seated cultural and historical differences played a significant role both in legislative reforms and their application, coupled in Scotland with a conjunction of agency and political pragmatism that produced radical reforms. Significant factors implicated in the failure of the English reforms were political ambivalence towards the legislation; judicial/magisterial resistance or lack of training, particularly on child development; the absence of accountability in the magistracy; and the influence exercised by the Magistrates' Association. The research draws on archival papers and research literature, supplemented by interviews with key people. It has sought to find the origin of some influential ideas and explain their acceptance or rejection by the lay justices, through their exercise of judicial discretion. As there were further Acts related to juvenile defendants in both jurisdictions in the 1990s, the research was concluded with a consideration of their implementation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Penelope Lynne Ravenscroft
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
K Law > KD England and Wales
K Law > KD England and Wales > KDC Scotland
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Downes, David

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