Wednesday, April 27, 2011

They're not youths, they're very naughty boys

The front page of today Leicester Mercury reports that the city's Eco House in Western Park has been forced to close for the Easter holidays after one of its staff was "attacked and threatened by young louts".

The report continues:
Sophie Inskip, 19, was followed home and spat on after finishing work at the Eco- house, in Leicester's Western Park, on Sunday.
Five youths confronted her at about 5pm, harassing and threatening her.

As she walked home through the park, they followed her, jostling her and spitting in her face.
Shocking stuff. Teenagers today, eh?

Except that if you read on you find that this incident did not involve teenagers at all:
Sergeant Simon Barnes, of Hinckley Road police station, said officers were looking to speak to two suspects, aged 11 and 12.
Boys of 11 and 12 are not youths - they are children. There have always been double standards here - a 14-year-old offender is a "youth"; a 14-year-old victim is a "schoolboy" - but calling such young children "youths" seems perverse.

I recall the news coverage of Liverpool gang culture at the time of the shooting of Rhys Jones in Croxteth. The overwhelming impression given was that parents and the authorities had allowed whole housing estates to be taken over by children. Those involved were, at most, young teenagers.

Perhaps part of the answer is to stop being afraid of calling children "children". The linguistic inflation in the education world, where we now hear talk of  "primary school students" is silly, but importing that mind-set into the judicial system, where it will help neither delinquent children nor those who suffer through their actions, looks positively dangerous.

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