Youth Justice And The Medias Society Criminology Essay

This essay will get down by foregrounding how the media may determine society ‘s response to immature people who break the jurisprudence through the moral terror theoretical account. The media ‘s function will be outlined and youth offense informations summarised.

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The urban perturbations of the early 1990s and the decease of James Bulger will both be discussed in bend. In both instances a description of the event will be followed by an lineation of the media response, placing elements typical within the moral terror theoretical account. An effort will be made to understand the reaction of society to media representations associated with immature jurisprudence surfs. Finally, in each instance the action undertaken by the agents of control will be examined.

This essay will try to build statements disputing this theoretical account throughout, and suggest that moral terrors may besides hold beginnings within society ‘s elite through hegemony.

It is acknowledged that statements environing hegemony may associate in to the groundbreaking young person justness statute law of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, introduced after the period discussed in this essay. The impact of this statute law is acknowledged, nevertheless for the intents of the media and society ‘s response to immature people who break the jurisprudence it will non be discussed.

The Moral Panic

A moral terror may be outlined as the designation of a menace, for illustration to societal values. This menace is simplified by the media with deformed representation ensuing in raised societal anxiousness. Agents of control respond, ensuing in either the panic diminishing or societal alterations taking topographic point ( Thompson cited in Newburn 2007 p95 ) . The deviancy elaboration rhythm describes how heightened aberrance may be attributed to stigma originating from media hyperbole or the intervention from agents of control ( Brown 2005, Cohen 2002 ) . Young highlights how this may rapidly make jobs through overstating an ‘outsider life style ‘ ( Young cited in Kidd-Hewitt 2002 p119 ) .

Although studied by Jock Young in 1971 ( Kidd-Hewitt 2002 ) , Stanley Cohen ‘s Folk Devils and Moral Panics ( 1972 ) was described as ‘the foremost systematic empirical survey of a moral terror in Britain ‘ ( Muncie 2004 p119 ) . Cohen ‘s survey of Mods and Rockers in Clacton during the Easter bank vacation in 1964 argued a clear relationship between immature jurisprudence surfs, the media, the general populace and the constabulary. Cohen ‘s work may be associated with Tannenbaum ‘s labelling and Lemert ‘s primary and secondary aberrance, all with beginnings in Mead and Cooley ‘s symbolic interactionism ( Newburn 2007 ) .

The media have constructed and processed information and thoughts sing deviancy since the industrial age, intending society normally see this commercially and politically forced representation of aberrance 2nd manus ( Cohen 2003 ) . Hall et Al ( 1978 ) explicate how the media may hold an assumed objectiveness and often pass on an false societal consensus, but they frequently have structured entree to elite involvements or primary definers, and reproduce their colored message.

Cohen outlines elements which may look in the media as stereotyping and stigmatising, a moral accent, and the demand for farther action. Information may be exaggerated and the usage of symbols may be evident with aberrance represented through identifiable points such as vesture ( Cohen 2002 ) . Attitudes that may originate in a moral terror include the perceptual experience a catastrophe has occurred, the ‘prophecy of day of reckoning ‘ ( Cohen 2002 p38 ) where it is perceived events will go on once more, and how at the tallness of a moral terror other unrelated events may be presented as connected. Perceived origins of a terror may include behavior being likened to a disease, distributing and infecting. Nostalgia may look along with disenchantment at the manner things have become, unprompted activities may be described as premeditated, and behaviors may be perceived as freshly developed ( Cohen 2002 ) .

Young person Crime

The ability of the media to act upon public positions of young person offense ( Allen 2004 cited in Smith 2007 ) is apparent through a rise in offense perceived by the bulk of persons who cited the media as a cardinal information beginning ( Hough and Roberts 2004 ) . This is illustrated by 89 per cent of wrongdoers known to the constabulary being over the age of 18 yet about a 3rd of study respondent attributed most offense to kids ( Smith 2007 ) . It is besides suggested respondents perceived an overdone hazard of being a offense victim ( Goldson 2002 p391 ) .

It is advised that offense informations should be treated with cautiousness because an exact figure of happenings does non be ( Tierney 2006 ) . 20 per cent of the 5.4 million recorded offenses in 2006/07 were attributed to 10 to 17 twelvemonth olds ( Newburn 2007, Nicholas et al 2007 ) and about 80,000 offenses per annum are accountable to other bureaus. These figures are non included in official offense informations, along with 40 per cent of constabulary reported offenses ( Maguire 2002 ) . Youth offense declined overall between 1985 and 1993 ( Newburn 2002 cited in France ) with comparative consistence between 1993 and 2000 ( Flood-Page et al 2000 cited in France ) .

Wrongdoer and victim studies highlight offenses non included in official informations – the dark figure ( Newburn 2007 ) with estimated rates changing from eleven times more offense happenings ( Sparks et al 1977 cited in Tierney 2006 ) to a figure 39 times greater ( Farrington et al 2006 ) . Some offenses often undertaken by kids have a smaller dark figure intending proportionally more youth offense may be included in offense informations. Crimes associated with younger people have estimated happenings per existent strong belief of six times for burglary, 77 for shrinkage and 132 for assault. Crimes associated with older wrongdoers have rates of 809 happenings per strong belief for fraud, and 1463 for larcenies from work ( Farrington et al 2006 ) .

Early on 1990s Urban Perturbations

During the 1970s thoughts environing the bulk of offense being committed by a minority of persons emerged from the Magistrates Association ( Muncie 2004 ) and schemes during the 1980s were partially responsible for a decrease in young person offense ( Pitts 2001 ) . This increased aggressively in the early 1990s by 111 per cent ( Pitts 2001 ) and the Criminal Justice Act 1991 introduced an progressively desert based sentencing policy, restricting the ability to see old offenses ( Thomas 2003 ) .

From mid 1991 urban young person perturbations emerged from Cardiff, Oxford and in Newcastle notably on the Meadowell Estate where two immature auto stealers died in a constabulary pursuit ( Newburn 2007 ) . These perturbations involved auto related offense and resulted in struggle chiefly between male young person and the constabulary, and ensuing in many apprehensions ( Brown 2005 ) . Individual younger kids, identified by anonym besides appeared to be take parting in unrelated activities such as domestic burglary

Wykes ( 2001 ) argues that the poorness, substance abuse and deficiency of chance peculiarly experienced by the socially excluded Meadowell young person was mostly ignored by the media. This supports Jewkes statement that the juvenile cultural opposition suggested by Cohen ‘s theoretical account may be exaggerated as a primary beginning of continued aberrance ( cited in Newburn 2007 ) .

The Media

Exaggerated and deformed communicating may hold shaped society ‘s perceptual experience of the degree and type of piquing being based on affectional, equivocal and inaccurate information from the constabulary and media ( Garland cited in Goldson 2002 ) . Labeling and pigeonholing claimed ‘hardcore child ace criminals ‘ were responsible for ’90 per cent of offenses ‘ and were the ‘number one offense job ‘ ( Daily Star, 30 November 1992 cited in Muncie 2004 p28 ) .

Reporting limitations led to the designation of younger perverts through anonym such as Ratboy, Homing Pigeon Boy, Spider Boy and The Terror Triplets ( Muncie 2004 ) . Aberrant activities were distorted depicting joyriding, random-access memory raiding, and hotting ( Muncie 2004 ) with frequent usage of the term ‘riot ‘ argued by Brown ( 2005 ) to be declarative of a moral terror. The in writing representation of aberrance and the ‘macho ‘ urban male young person ‘stunt driving ‘ ( Brown 2005 p59 ) supports McRobbie and Thornton ‘s ( 2002 ) statement that moral terrors may be entertaining. Moralising was besides evident with word pictures of noncompliant young person as a 10 twelvemonth old in an SAS mask ‘swaggered free ‘ from tribunal ensuing in calls for farther action ( Brown 2005 p60 ) , although it is argued that a moral factor may non ever be apparent in a moral terror ( Jewkes 2004 cited in Newburn 2007 ) .

The Terror Triplets illustrate the nature of the imperativeness coverage. The threes were non relentless wrongdoers with one old strong belief between them, and they all experienced wellness issues runing from attending shortage hyperactivity upset to epilepsy and a address hindrance with their instruction described in tribunal as inadequate ( 2002 ) .

Society ‘s Chemical reaction

One terror surrounded the serious persistent immature wrongdoer, often termed ‘bail brigands ‘ ( Brown 2005 p61 ) which failed to recognize that relentless wrongdoers normally engage in petit larceny offense, many are vulnerable kids who are neglected or abused, with mental wellness and instruction issues ( Muncie 2004 ) .

Vague and imprecise descriptions of young person aberrance were highlighted by the constabulary and media on an increasing footing with this deficiency of differentiation fuelling societal anxiousness sing the degree and type of juvenile piquing taking topographic point ( Garland cited in Goldson 2002 ) . The inability of the condemnable justness system to cover with young person offense was besides a beginning of concern with Ratboy, who had accrued 55 offenses between the ages of 10 and 14, symbolizing the inability for jurisprudence and order to be maintained ( Muncie 2004 p28 ) . Despite decarceration and recreation cut downing ‘known juvenile piquing ‘ in the 1980s, it was progressively believed penal liberalism had ‘gone excessively far ‘ ( Goldson 2002 p390 ) .

Fiction progressively replaced factual and rational information ‘to conjure up monsters that seem to skulk behind the rubric and glister of mundane life ‘ ( Pratt 2000 cited in Goldson 2002 p390 ) . Brown ( 2005 ) argues the moral terror had mutated into a entire terror about the bulk of immature people ‘s lives, doing the suggestion that Cohen ‘s theoretical account may supply an deficient account. Childhood was considered to be in crisis, and as with Cohen ‘s ‘prophecy of day of reckoning ‘ ( 2002 p38 ) thought, farther aberrance was expected ( Pratt 2000 cited in Goldson 2002 ) .

Jewkes ( cited in Newburn 2007 ) argues that the coherence of society ‘s reaction may be overstated in Cohen ‘s moral panic theoretical account. McRobbie and Thornton ( 2002 ) agree, observing how audiences may be sophisticated, understanding changing manners of reading which may break up messages farther, such as the dry in-house publication manner in the Sun newspaper. Increased beginnings of information since the early 1990s such as the cyberspace may do farther atomization.

Agents of Control

The extended coverage escalated concerns motivating a Home Affairs Committee in July 1992 to see young person offense, relentless immature wrongdoers and the young person justness system ( HAC 1993 cited in Muncie 2004 ) . It was concluded that an increasing minority of immature wrongdoers were perpetrating a high volume of offenses, despite a deficiency of grounds ( Farrington 2002 ) and the thought of a relentless group being arbitrary ( Hagell & A ; Newburn in Muncie 2004 ) . Smith argues that the authorities responded through presenting the Aggravated Vehicle-Taking Act 1992, which was imprisonable for five old ages ( Home Affairs Committee 1993 ; Children ‘s Society 1993 cited in Smith 2007, Brown 2005 ) , subsequently increased to 14 old ages in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 ( 2008 ) .


Brown agrees with Cohen ‘s suggestion that the agents of control have no pick but to react in their socially sanctioned manner proposing that high media coverage prompted the constabulary action towards tooling which had been happening for some clip ( Brown 2005 ) . The elite-engineered moral panic theoretical account provides an alternate account, depicting how society ‘s powerful elite may be the beginning ( Goode and Ben-Yehuda cited in Newburn 2007 ) . Marxist philosopher Gramsci explains such activity through hegemony, something Hall et all include in their theoretical account of the moral terror ( Hall et al 1978 ) and something Smith ( 2007 ) cites as important. Hegemony describes the persuasive communicating of a social consensus of belief systems through the media, deriving legitimacy for elect actions ( Althusser 1977 and Cohen 1985 cited in Smith 2007, Smith 2007, Brown 2005 ) .

Prior to the Aggravated Vehicle-Taking Act 1992 The Lord Chief Justice and the Magistrates Association were overtly discontent with political intervention and the limited capacity to increase sentences the Criminal Justice Act 1991. A ‘sophisticated run ‘ ( Smith 2007 p25 ) during 1991 by powerful members of the constabulary besides emerged associating to relentless immature wrongdoers, argued to hold resulted in a media moral terror ( Brown 2005, Downes and Morgan 2002 ) .

The Death of James Bulger

In February 1993 the well documented abduction of two twelvemonth James Bulger by 10 twelvemonth olds Robert Thompson and John Venables occurred. Taken from a shopping Centre, the male childs walked for two stat mis to a railroad path where James was attacked and murdered ( Muncie 2004, Brown 2005, Smith 2007 ) . Following nine months detention and a month long test the male childs were found guilty of the slaying ( Morrison 1997 ) . The male childs are now populating under false individualities, understood to be outside of the UK.

27 slayings of kids by kids have occurred in the last 250 old ages ( Muncie 2004 ) with four 10-13 twelvemonth olds convicted of slaying between 1979 and 1992 ( Cavadino 1996 ) . Children are considered to be at greater hazard from people who know to them ( Morrison 1997 ) highlighted by sexual maltreatment and anguish of James Bulger which it was argued suggested indicated the sexual maltreatment and anguish experienced by at least one of aggressors ( Sereny 1996 ) .

The Media

The hostile and ballyhoo artist attack to this instance contrasted aggressively with a similar Norse instance which was treated as a ‘tragic accident ‘ ( Muncie 2004 p6 ) and a similar instance from Stockport in 1861 where rehabilitation was the ultimate public response. Exaggerated and irrational labelling stigmatised the male childs as ‘spawn of Satan ‘ , ‘freaks of nature ‘ , and ‘monsters ‘ ( Muncie 2004 p4 ) . Sereny ( 1996 ) argues that the response to the male childs as innately evil high spots how insufficiently it was attempted to understand issues in their lives, with which Morrison agrees ( 1997 ) .

A consensus sing a new type of aberrance was apparent as ‘we will ne’er be able to look at our kids in the same manner once more ‘ . Concerns of reoccurrence were apparent with ‘parents everyplace are inquiring themselves and their friends if the Mark of the Beast might non besides be imprinted on their progeny ‘ ( Sunday Times cited in Muncie 2004 p4 ) reding ‘For Goodness Sake Hold Tight To Your Kids ‘ ( Sun 16 February 1993 cited in Mason 2003 p197 ) .

Blurring of the boundary between the media and the audience ( McRobbie & A ; Thornton 2002 ) may be seen with the widely broadcast CCTV footage of James Bulger in a shopping Centre with his attackers. The Bulger household created a request in concurrence with the Sun newspaper and a telecasting phone in of about 300,000 names demanding Thompson and Venables ne’er to be released ( Morrison 1997 ) . Retaliatory remarks broadcast on telecasting included James ‘ male parent Ralph saying ‘one twenty-four hours they ‘ll be out of gaol and I ‘ll be waiting for them ‘ and James ‘s uncle Jim endangering ‘when we acquire hold of them, we will sleep togethering kill them ‘ ( Morrison p234 ) . McRobbie and Thornton ( 2002 ) besides explore the thought of force per unit area groups or the common people devils themselves film overing this boundary further and widening the argument by either looking in or bring forthing their ain media, although this is non apparent in this instance.

By 1995 immature people were being represented as the ‘savage coevals ‘ ( The Sunday Times 5 February 1995 cited in Kidd-Hewitt 2002 p117 ) . Cohen ‘s ‘it ‘s non merely this ‘ ( Cohen 2002 p39 ) thought was apparent through frequent and ubiquitous terrors which blamed the dislocation of the household, the handiness of drugs and the crimogenic media ( Kidd-Hewitt 2002, Thornton cited in Newburn 2007 ) . McRobbie and Thornton ( 2002 ) argue unlike the freshness described in Cohen ‘s theoretical account, this has become a basic media response.


Despite this offense ‘s unusualness, social anxiousness increased environing both the authorities ‘s capacity to command the crimogenic capacity of younger kids, and the protection of younger kids ( Pitt 2001, Muncie 2004, Brown 2005 ) . Crime information suggests a tendency of younger kids ‘s engagement in offense through a autumn in the peak age of piquing, but this is besides accompanied by earlier desistance ( Condemnable Statisticss 1995 cited in Coleman 1997, Criminal Statistics 2005 cited in Coleman & A ; Schofield 2007 ) .

Adult perceptual experiences sing age-appropriate behavior were challenged ( Brown 2005 ) and with ‘childhood on test ‘ ( James & A ; Jenks cited in Muncie 2004 p4 ) artlessness shifted to possible immorality and hatred ( Muncie & A ; Hughes 2002 ) . It is besides argued that ensuing public and legal attitudes towards kids have become more punitory as a consequence of this instance ( Hendrick 2002 p39 ) with deceits fuelling harsher steps ( Smith 2007 ) .

The well established panic environing crimogenic media besides emerged ( Brown 2005 ) , a youth civilization anxiousness every bit seen every bit early as 1917 when the deteriorating influence of film was highlighted ( Russell cited in Pearson 1983 ) . In the Bulger instance the movie Child ‘s Play 3 was the topic of this panic despite grounds in tribunal proposing this movie had non been viewed by the male childs ( Morrison 1997 ) . Brown ( 2005 ) argues that the movie ‘s character Chucky who physically represented a kid but behaviourally represented an grownup was used as a symbol of the challenge to age-appropriate behavior. More tenuous associations include the usage of batteries in James Bulger ‘s onslaught ( Morrison 1997 ) .

Agents of Control

It is argued that doli incapax ( incapable of offense ) where it must be proven that a kid understands right and incorrect was reviewed for 10 to thirteen twelvemonth olds in response to this instance. Although the rule was ab initio retained it was subsequently revoked in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 ( Bandalli 2000 cited in Gelsthorpe & A ; Morris 2002 ) .

Despite protection under the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child ( UNCRC ) mental wellness proviso was limited during the male childs nine months in detention and minimum allowance was made for their age with the test in an grownup tribunal and their individualities exposed to the international media, argued to hold heightened the ‘campaign of hatred ‘ ( Scraton & A ; Haydon 2002 p313 ) . Upon release Dame Butler-Sloss favoured the 1998 Human Rights Act over freedom of look, allowing namelessness to Thompson and Venables for the hazard of retaliatory hurt or decease ( cited in Scraton & A ; Haydon 2002 ) .

The UK authorities breached articles associating to a just test, repairing sentence and periodic reappraisal of sentence in the European Convention of Human Rights ( Muncie 2004, Scraton & A ; Haydon 2002 ) . The sentence had already been increased from eight old ages to ten by the Lord Chief Justice. Final condemning authorization rested with Michael Howard ( Sereny 1996 ) who increased it for a 2nd clip to 15 old ages, mentioning public concern and the Bulger request ( Morrison 1997 ) . This illustrates Cohen ‘s statement that sometimes agents of control have to move. Once overturned, the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 removed the capacity for the Home Secretary to step in in condemning determinations ( Muncie 2004 ) .

With offense going 2nd merely to unemployment on the docket ( Pitts 2001 ) , the purpose to imprison 12 to 14 twelvemonth olds through secure developing units and unafraid preparation orders was announced, ten yearss after James Bulger ‘s decease and merely months after stoping detention for 14 twelvemonth olds in the Criminal Justice Act 1991 ( Smith 2007 ) . More punitory steps were introduced in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 where the maximal sentence for 15 to seventeen twelvemonth olds doubled to two old ages ( Newburn 2002 ) .


The terminal of the bi-partisan consensus on offense was evident in the 1970 Conservative Party pronunciamento ( Pitts 2001 ) with punitory rhetoric going associated with political success ( Smith 2007 ) . By the 1992 general election a return to bi-partisanship was argued in the signifier of being tough on offense as a agency to political triumph ( Downes & A ; Morgan 2002 ) .

Following Labours 1992 licking policies were transferred from the reinvented and electorally successful Democrats ( Pitts 2001 ) argued to hold ‘rescued the Labour Party from ageless resistance ‘ ( Pitts 2001 p18, Hudson & A ; Lowe 2004 ) which included a punitory attack towards offense. This was apparent the month before James Bulger ‘s decease when the Shadow Home Secretary, Tony Blair declared how New Labour were ‘tough on offense, tough on causes of offense ‘ ( cited in Pitts 2001 p19 ) . Political posturing is argued to hold become portion of young person justness go oning throughout the ninetiess with Labour ‘s new attack suggested to hold heightened Conservative authorities punitiveness.

It is argued that instead than being a accelerator for policy alteration, the slaying of James Bulger may hold accelerated the ‘punitive bend ‘ . The abolishment of doli incapax may be associated with this event but it is argued that events prior to James Bulger ‘s decease were already act uponing youth justness policy ( Smith 2007 ) . The tone of political communicating high spots the argued political development of young person fright with labels like ‘vermin ‘ ( Goldson 2002 p392 ) . John Major illustrated an false punitory consensus ( Hall et al 1978 ) , stating how ‘society needs to reprobate a small more and understand a small less ‘ and Kenneth Clarke called for increased tribunal powers, underscoring ill will towards ‘really relentless, awful small juveniles ‘ ( Smith 2007 p25 ) .

McRobbie and Thornton argue hegemony is overstated due to the possible ‘plurality of reactions ‘ ( 2004 p72 ) , something Jewkes besides points out, depicting how public and media coherence is overstated ( cited in Newburn 2007 p100 ) , although it is noted that disconnected hegemonic activity may be seen, for illustration with Thatcherism and the Daily Mail ( McRobbie & A ; Thornton 2004 ) .

Following on from the aberrance elaboration theoretical account, it may be argued that in some instances authoritiess may increase deviancy through the intercessions they initiate ( Brown 2005 ) .


It has been suggested that the media is powerful in determining society ‘s response to immature people who break the jurisprudence, being a primary information beginning. One of the ways in which the media shapes society ‘s response is by making the feeling that young person offense is more widespread that truly is the instance. The jobs that some aberrant young person experience are grossly under represented such as the wellness issues of The Terror Triplets and the possible that at least one of James Bulger ‘s aggressors may hold besides been a 10 twelvemonth old victim of sexual maltreatment. Problems besides include the failure to go around general information such as the dark figure of offense for fraud, the grownup age of most known wrongdoers or a autumn in the extremum piquing age.

The simplified and overdone manner in which young person are represented is argued to do widespread social terror and irrational frights, for illustration the expectancy of similar repetition activity in the instance of rare offenses such as the slaying of James Bulger. Explanations for the activity such as ‘it ‘s non merely this ‘ may feed the terror, ensuing in greater frights about unrelated factors and in the instance of the early 1990s lead to a entire terror about young person. Authority action may be influenced by the public involvement generated by a moral terror, and in the instance of hegemony society ‘s response to the media may be the proviso of consent for authorization action.

It was argued that moral terrors besides have the possible to be entertaining and make non ever include moralizing. The coherence of response to a moral terror may be overstated with the plurality of media highlighted. The thought of a entire terror about young person was considered and the blurring of boundaries illustrated as holding the possible to spread anxiousnesss through argument broadening, or heighten concerns and inform province action, as with the request in the Bulger instance.

In decision, grounds may back up the theoretical account described by Cohen, it is suggested nevertheless that other positions highlight that the manner in which the media and society interact with regard to immature people who break the jurisprudence is more complex.


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