REVIEWS

Publication Date01 May 1960
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1960.tb00610.x
REVIEWS
THE
CHILD
AND
THE
COURT.
By
W.
E.
CAVENAGH.
[London:
ALTHOUGH from time to time articles have appeared in legal and sociological
periodicals about the work of the juvenile courts, and there are sections on
the subject in some of the textbooks, this is the first full-scale treatment of
it which
I
have come across. The work of these courts has, of course, in-
creased enormously both in quantity and importance with the disturbing
increase of juvenile delinquency in recent years,
so
that the appearance of this
work is timely.
For
it undoubtedly provides
a
helpful and valuable discussion
both of the procedural aspects of the work of the courts, and of the human
and sociological problems which continuously arise in them.
Mrs.
Cavenagh
has not only been
a
magistrate, working in juvenile courts, for
a
number
of
years, but she is
a
trained and experienced social worker of eminence in that
profession, having been Chairman
of
the Association of Social Workers.
She is therefore doubly qualified to write on juvenile courts.
The book should be
a
great boon to those who are actually working in
these courts, and indeed to magistrates generally.
Mrs.
Cavenagh has the
ability to communicate the result of her experiences in
a
clear and helpful
manner, her whole treatment of the subject is enriched by
a
ripe wisdom
which she places
at
the disposal of her fellow magistrates unstintingly. Her
work should also be most helpful to administrators and politicians who are,
or should be, concerned to bring about improvements in
our
far from perfect
system for handling the problem of juvenile delinquency. Indeed, her obser-
vations, based on wide reading as w’ell as her own experiences, are often
so
statesmanlike in character that they must receive careful consideration at the
Home Office when new legislative projects are under discussion.
I
do not, however, feel that the book can be unreservedly recommended to
new magistrates,
or
others coming into this subject
as
a
new field. Although
Mrs.
Cavenagh has an unusual ability, for
a
lay magistrate, to understand
and appreciate the legal point of view and atmosphere, she finds it difficult
to
stand outside her subject in the way that is required for
a
clear and well-
balanced description of any legal
or
political institution. In the result
I
think that most people coming new to the subject would get
a
confused and
confusing impression of the system under description. And this would
probably be accentuated by
Mrs.
Cavenagh’s unfortunate tendency to
repetition.
These weaknesses are exemplified in the
first
two chapters, which are
intended to give an introductory account of the work of an ordinary magis-
trate’s court; no doubt
a
very necessary preparation for what is to follow.
But Mrs. Cavenagh never quite succeeds in doing this.
As
she goes along
she has ideas both about the work of the ordinary courts and of the juvenile
courts which she cannot resist discussing. These ideas are, it is true, usually
very much to the point, and
as
I
have already suggested will prove of much
interest to experienced magistrates, but they do obscure the clarity of the
picture which
our
author is
at
such pains to paint.
The substance of the book consists in four excellent chapters in which the
procedure, the powers, the practical working and, finally, the sentencing powers
of these courts are dealt with: these take
up
rather more than half the
volume. As
I
have already indicated, there is
a
great deal of illustration
from actual cases with which
Mrs.
Cavenagh has herself been concerned, or
which she has collected from the pages of the
Magistrate,
Probation,
or
one
335
Gollancz.
1959. 239
pp.
21s.
net.]
336
THE MODERN LAW REVIEW
VOL.
23
of the other periodicals concerned with these matters. This is one of the
reasons why her book should be
so
helpful to magistrates working in these
courts. In many rural parts of the country juvenile courts sit only rarely,
the outburst of juvenile delinquency being larg’dy an urban phenomenon, and
it is a worrying aspect of the system that
so
many of the justices administering
it have but little practical experience. These, in particular, should get much
help from this book.
Mrs.
Cavenagh concludes with chapters
on
the Child and the Court, and
the Court and Social Services. In the former of these there
is
an acute
discussion of what is,
I
think, the central problem in the handling of juvenile
delinquency, that is whether it should be dealt with as a crime by a court,
or
as an ’educational difficulty by some social institution. This matter, which is
of profound relevance, has never been properly faced up to in this country
either by legislature
or
executive.
It
crops up from time
to
time in the
earlier chapters of this book, but in this chapter the author sets out clearly
and objectively the arguments on either side without coming down decisively
one way
or
the other, though she is inclined to favour
‘I
the sphere of the social
servic’es rather than of the penal system.”
One important aspect of this same problem which is clearly brought out
(in one of the earlier chapters) is the different interpretations placed upon
section
M
of the Children and Young Persons Act,
1938,
which provides that
‘I
every court shall have regard to the welfare of the child.” One view of this
is that the welfare of the child must be “the
first
consideration.” Another
is
that “it contains nothing new”-the welfare of the offender “whether adult
or
juvenile’’ being one of the matters to which the court must always have
regard.
No
guidance seems to have been given on this matter by the High
Court and yet it is obviously one of fundamental importance in the work
of
these courts.
Much of the final chapter is taken up with the work of the Gluecks on
prediction, and the amount of consideration given to the part played by the
social services is a little disappointing, especially in view of the author’s
eminence in that world. She does, however, bring out the very real difficulty
caused by the fact that the handling of juvenile delinquency on a penal basis
effectively separates it from the educational and other essential elements of the
social servic’es, and it is probably this fact which in the end inclines her to
favour
a
transfer to
‘I
the social sphere.”
But she does not feel that the existing social services are adequate to the
task of coping with juvenile delinquency which she Ands stems back almost
invariably to inadequacies in the family.
Her
own rather tentative proposal
would be for the setting up of
a
new service,
or
perhaps the reconstruction
of an old one,
so
as to provide for the guidance and assistance of families
when in need.
Mrs.
Cavenagh is too experienced and wise
a
person not to be
aware of the very great difficulties in the way of her proposal. Yet
so
much
is effectively done already on these lines by probation and children’s officers
working in co-operation that one cannot but feel that some positive steps on
the lines suggested by her might lead
to
a
really spectacular advance.
One of the matters which disturb Mrs. Cavenagh
is
the role of the police
in
our
magistrates’ courts system. The police really run the courts, which
explains why it is
so
di5cult to break down the inveterate and not unreason-
able habit of calling them “police courts”
:
even
in
the higher courts the
police seem to take
a
predominant part in the administration, and
I
have
even heard of a policeman choosing their foreman for
a
jury which was being
a
little indecisive about the job, for
it
seems inevitable that the jury room
should be in charge of
a
constable
!
It
is probable that much less practical harm results from this police
dominance than might be expected, since we have
a
police force which, on the
whole, is not only uncorrupt and sympathetic, but not aggressive for power.
Nevertheless, the system is not really defensible, and may well have much more
serious psychological and moral influences on
a
large but inarticulate section

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