Book Review: Rougher Justice, Anti-Social Behaviour and Young People

Publication Date01 June 2006
Date01 June 2006
AuthorIan Macfadyen
Rougher Justice, Anti-Social
Behaviour and Young People
Peter Squires and Dawn E. Stephen
Willan Publishing, 2005; pp 208; £18.99, pbk
ISBN 1–8439–2111–1
Squires and Stephen are Brighton-based academics who
have written a book about anti-social behaviour and young
people. Their work is based on a small number of separate
research projects along with a series of contributions
submitted to specialist conferences. They have used this
book to develop their critique of existing youth justice practice and to demonstrate
their commitment to qualitative research, designed to give a voice to young people.
In order to make their case, they refer to concepts such as the ‘justice gap’. This is
a phrase coined by the Home Office, where it is suggested that the majority of
offenders are not brought to court and that an overwhelming majority of harmful,
offensive or anti-social behaviours appear to achieve no redress.
The authors frequently refer to the ‘enforcement deficit’. This idea is based on
the assumption that traditional Criminal Justice (CJ) interventions tend to individ-
ualize responses and are unable to address the collective and accumulating
impact of harm and distress across a community. The authors rework these ideas,
in an attempt to demonstrate that, ‘in contrast to the conventional view that, as
crime falls anti-social behaviour becomes a major cause for concern, we are
actually witnessing crime and disorder being re-problematized as anti-social
activity.’ They believe that this lends a spurious new integrity to the politics of
exclusion, to intolerance and to inequality. The authors characterize their approach
as something new and almost entirely contrary to the views commonly expressed
by politicians and ‘local authority enforcement officials’, which is the description
given to the new class of Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) coordinators.
The book begins by describing the growing preoccupation in contemporary
Britain with crime and anti-social behaviour. There follows a review of the relevant
criminological history. The authors then develop their ideas about the punitive
effects of this new anti-social behaviour industry, placing particular emphasis on
listening to young people themselves. The writers conclude their analysis by
suggesting how in the light of all this, policy should be changed.
Squires and Stephen are extremely critical of virtually all statutory work being
carried out with young people within the CJ system. They appear to be saying that
the systems in place are making things worse for everybody and that practitioners
are blindly following a punitive approach, which ignores the actual experience of
young people. The early parts of the book – which describe how the concept of
anti-social behaviour has developed and how this was shaped by the times – are
interesting. Overall, however, this is a rather poorly written and uninspiring piece
of work. Snappy chapter headings such as ‘The Secret History of Anti-Social Behav-
iour’ consistently disappoint. Far from presenting us with a radical critique, this
book sheds little fresh light on an important area of work. It re-states and over-
elaborates a number of simple ideas and fizzles out at the end like a damp squib.

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