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'Children are travellers newly arrived in a strange country, of which they know nothing'.
This article considers the current problematic status of very young offenders in the English youth justice system. There has been much debate about the impact of the James Bulger case on youth justice, but this frequently centres on legal discussion about the age of criminal responsibility, or the more punitive societal and media calls for retribution. This paper seeks to move the debate forward by approaching it from the perspective of the child, and by considering the ramifications of current policy for the majority of very young offenders, who have generally committed very minor offences. In the first part, the paper contrasts the English approach to very serious cases involving very young offenders with those in other jurisdictions. In the second part, the paper examines empirical findings from the author's research observing offender panels and interviewing very young offenders.
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