Reading Gary Younge's latest article on knife crime, I was struck by my experience of knife crime. I spend nearly a month at the Old Bailey as a youth justice officer tracking a case where a 15 year old had stabbed another outside a school near the end of term. I was the social worker for the child who was convicted of murder. To say the experience was life changing would be a fair summary of that dreadful month.
What Gary Younge has done is put into words thoughts I had buried for many years
"It is difficult to know what justice looks like when one 15-year-old is dead and another is on trial for their murder. Naturally, you want the perpetrator to be punished. But if the perpetrator is also a child then, on one level, it seems as if some broader, deeper, more intractable injustice has already been committed. One thrashes about, mostly in vain, for an institution, service or agency to blame; for an intervention that could have helped or a moral safety net with smaller holes that might have caught him. There are preferable outcomes; but there are no good outcomes. If the accused is found not guilty, then either the killer is still out there or he just got away with it. If he is guilty, then one child is still dead and the other’s life is ruined. If we understand that wigs in a court can intimidate teenagers, then what do we imagine 20 years in prison will do?"
Youth justice is a difficult profession and no more so than when one child murders another.