20 June 2014

At a time when discussion of the past and its impact on the future seems to be gaining momentum, especially with the recent right to be forgotten ruling, it’s interesting to see the House of Lords considering an update to the youth justice system.

anchorThe inquiry proposed wiping young people’s records when they turn eighteen if they no longer commit any offences. It takes into account that having a criminal record for minor offences can block their employment prospects even if they have worked hard to be better and to make something of themselves.

Lord Carlile, who chaired the review, used the hypothetical example of a young person who stole a mobile phone when they were sixteen, but had since turned their life around. Is it fair that this person shouldn’t get a job up to five years later because their records state that they’ve committed an offence? Obviously, if it’s a serious offence then this is different, but for many, it simply acts as a painful reminder of a different life, a different person.

It was interesting to read that one young person described a criminal record as “an anchor to the past”. A good metaphor, as it’s all well and good setting the sails and planning the course, but if you’re still anchored, you can’t make progress. It’s at this junction that I think we need to ask ourselves how we can turn the passion and emotion of youth into something positive rather than letting it ground their future.

What do you think? Does the youth justice system need updating?

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