ChildLinks Issue 2: Crime's Effect on Children

Barnardos. (2001). ChildLinks Issue 2: Crime's Effect on Children.
As usual the contributions to this journal are grouped around a central theme. The area of crime and its effect on children and young people is highly topical for mainly three reasons: the enactment of the Children Bill; the ongoing discussion around society's response to troubled children in care; and the public debate about rehabilitation of child offenders in relation to the Jamie Bulger case. I hope that the journal and the wide range of contributors will assist the debate around the above issues but also support practitioners in their difficult work with children at risk. In relation to the theme of children and crime I wish to make two points which - I believe - are not sufficiently considered in the present debate. The first point concerns children as victims of crime. When I was researching for this issue of ChildLinks I found a huge amount of figures, statistics and reports relating to children as perpetrators of crime but surprisingly little on children as victims of crime. But the truth is that children are victimised - as individual targets, as “innocent bystanders” or when their families experience crime. Of course, we should pay close attention to those children who offend and develop appropriate responses both in terms of prevention and intervention - but crime also victimises children in vast numbers and in many different ways. There are the obvious child specific crimes such as child abuse, abduction, trafficking or child pornography. These crimes affect a very large number of children and are horrific in their short and long term consequences. However, even larger numbers of children share the trauma of their families when, for example, the family home is burgled or a parent is assaulted. Children of offenders suffer innocently, particularly when the parent is absent due to a custodial sentence. Given the resulting damage and trauma to children, society has a responsibility to direct resources, services and research to protect these children from harm as far as possible. The other point is prevention. While it is generally accepted that prevention is better than cure, when it comes to juvenile crime the public debate around options for prevention frequently lacks depth and there seems very little room for innovation. What is often missed is evidence based research into what works in preventative work with children at risk of offending. In this context we would support the recommendations of the Irish Penal Reform Trust in their response to the Children Bill. In particular the recommendation to establish a research unit “to identify the causes of and develop appropriate strategies for responding to juvenile crime” and the demand for “substantial funding to be made available and directed towards early interventions and preventative measures in order to ensure the success of this legislation and to break the cycle of exclusion experienced by marginalised young people”.