Beyond pre‐emptive criminalisation: towards a child‐friendly youth justice

Sean Creaney (Lecturer in Childhood and Youth Studies at the Centre for Education and Applied Social Sciences, Stockport College, Stockport, UK and Trustee of the National Association for Youth Justice)

Safer Communities

ISSN: 1757-8043

Publication date: 12 July 2013



The purpose of this paper is first, to explore the impact of risk‐focussed intervention on the lives of young offenders and young people defined to be “at risk” of crime. Second, the paper considers “alternative perspectives” and the prospect of a youth justice predicated upon the principles of informal justice, child‐friendly values and the notion of inclusion.


The first part of the paper reviews the theory and literature on early‐preventative intervention in the youth justice system. The second part of the paper explores “alternative perspectives”, drawing on restorative justice, restorative approaches and diversionary measures.


The paper presents three general findings. First, young people can be subject to youth justice intervention without a “presenting problem” or offence committed. More pertinently this form of pre‐emptive criminalisation violates the child's human rights, due‐process and legal safeguards. Second, young people who are drawn into the net of formal youth justice intervention can suffer from the stigmatising and labelling effects of being criminalised. Third, there is a pressing need for youth justice policy and practice to be transformed, in order to allow for the implementation of more informal, diversionary and restorative measures.


The paper has great value for students of youth justice, and policy makers, especially the conservative‐liberal democrat government who wish to cut costs, introduce restorative justice on a large scale and appear to be in favour of diverting young people away from formal youth justice intervention.



Creaney, S. (2013), "Beyond pre‐emptive criminalisation: towards a child‐friendly youth justice", Safer Communities, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 101-110.

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