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Curbing the trend towards 'combat' dogs

We have good reason to get more anxious about the proliferation of dogs owned, irresponsibly, by young people. Not all young people, of course, but a group of young men for whom ownership of a fighting dog has steadily replaced the possession of a knife. The latter carries a custodial sentence of five years; the former can only result in confiscation.

Young offenders are also victims

The much publicised trial of the two young boys from Edlington who tortured two other boys of similar age has, inevitably, brought back vivid memories of the James Bulger murder 17 years ago.

Outstanding challenge for Ofsted

Ofsted-bashing has been on the rise for several months. Cries of exasperation over the way the children's services inspectorate goes about its business have come in fits and starts from all quarters.

Steps towards child-friendly justice

The Council of Europe is drawing up guidelines on child-friendly justice for member states, as we reveal this week. They cover not just the youth justice system but all elements of justice, from the family courts to care proceedings.

It's time to respect children's rights

You wait ages for one 20th anniversary, then three come along at once. We've just marked the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1989 Children Act. And this week it is 20 years since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child came into existence.

Cuts could enhance joint working

The party conference season is over and national politics is destined for a surreal few months in the run-up to the general election. Expect plenty more short-term children's policy announcements - some even eye- catching - as the main parties try to outmanoeuvre each other to strike a popular chord. Politics in Westminster will become increasingly sensationalised and polarised.

Focus of spending must be balanced

It's official: the UK spends more money on child welfare and education than the average market economy. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report out last week, we spend just over 90,000 per child from birth to 18 compared to an OECD average among 30 member countries of just under 80,000.

Booze Asbos won't change behaviour

So many policy issues and concerns have crystallised around the new Drinking Banning Orders, which came into force on the last day of August, that it is difficult to know where to start. And the ensuing disquiet from many quarters is not just pertinent to these "booze Asbos" or "alcobos" (alcohol banning orders) as I prefer to call them.

Young people in custody matter too

A government-commissioned review into the use of restraint in the youth prison system reported last December that force must be used as a "last resort".

Another threat to local youth justice

Jack Straw's proposal to send in "experts" to take over failing youth offending teams (YOTs), contained in last month's progress report on the Youth Crime Action Plan, flies in the face of a fundamental principle of the youth justice system after it was reformed in 1998. Straw himself was paradoxically the pioneer of those reforms.

Strange alliance opposes justice reforms

Ever since the overarching Youth Rehabilitation Order (YRO) was mooted as the replacement for the complex array of community sentences currently available for young offenders, I have sounded a note of caution. When the Scaled Approach was announced, I immediately started suggesting, in academic lectures on youth justice, that there was an historical precedent that highlighted the need for care in its development.

Poetry unlocks the minds of prisoners

Twice in the space of a week I was in Parc Prison in south Wales. The visits were at either end of a week of poetry, lectures and debate, developed and organised through an impressive and creative tie-up between the real Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye and the prison in Bridgend.

The next commissioner needs bite

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has fired the starting gun to recruit a children's commissioner for England to succeed Sir Al Aynsley-Green early next year.

Cost of custody should be devolved

The current system of placing children in prison operates under a perverse financial incentive. Local authorities, which are responsible for a range of prevention and early intervention work to divert the young from crime, are essentially rewarded for their failures. If children are sentenced to custody, they no longer pick up the tab for their welfare.

Wild wastelands should be scenes of fun

The swathes of land that were once the industrial heartlands of Britain, now reclaimed by nature, offer a fantastic adventure playground for children and young people. The communities that grew up surrounded by coal and steel now have wild parklands on their doorstep.

Wounds still healing in Northern Ireland

The Real IRA and the Continuity IRA claimed responsibility for the recent murders of soldiers and a police officer in Northern Ireland. But as they are perceived to be destabilising the peace settlement, it is important to hold on to the phenomenal progress that has been made in the province since the darkest days of the Troubles.

Who should foot the youth custody bill?

There has been renewed debate about whether local authorities should be charged when "their" young people are sentenced to custody. Frances Done, chair of the Youth Justice Board (YJB), backed the councils being charged in her recent interview with CYP Now (29 January-4 February).

Editorial: Care in custody will reduce violence

Our lead story this week uncovers the real extent of violence in young offender institutions (YOIs) over the past three years. The figures come from the Ministry of Justice, nearly 15 months after we requested the data under the Freedom of Information Act.

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