In England, the “Ragged Industrial School Movement” started in the second quarter of the nineteenth century was perhaps the first constructive institutional Endeavour which enabled the public to appreciate the desirability of corrective methods of treatment for juvenile offenders. An industrial school was set up for homeless, destitute and delinquent children.
A social activist, Miss Marry Carpenter did a pioneering work in this field and as a result of her persistent efforts legislation was enacted which received approval of House of Lords in 1847. She started a Ragged Industrial School in Bristol. Later, another Day Industrial School was started at Alberdeen.
In 1838, Parkhurst prison was set up for the treatment of juvenile offenders. Soon after, the British Parliament enacted the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879, which provided that a child below the age of seven (raised to eight by the statute subsequently) is incapable of committing a crime and therefore, cannot be convicted.
The Act provided for a simple trial-procedure for juvenile delinquents and stressed that the Magistrate should recommend individualised treatment for the reformation of such offenders. Similar legislations were enacted by other countries with a view to affording special consideration to children and adolescent offenders.
The delegates of the International Congress on Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders held in Paris in 1895 unanimously agreed on the necessity of special procedure and greater scope for the discretionary power of the Courts while dealing with the cases of juvenile offenders. Consequently, an Act called the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907 was enacted in England which empowered the courts to grant release to juveniles in appropriate cases.
The Act further provided for the appointment of probation officers who were to visit, supervise and report to the courts about juvenile delinquents and help and advise the young offenders in solving their problems.
Juvenile courts were first established in England under the Children Act, 1908. These courts differed from ordinary courts inasmuch as they were less public, less formal, and less formidable. The identity of accused or of any juvenile witness was not to be disclosed, nor photographs etc. could be taken for publication. Guardianship of the child was the guiding principle in the procedure to be followed in juvenile courts.
The prime duty of these courts was to afford proper care and protection to the child or young offender and take necessary steps for removing him from undesirable surroundings and ensure that proper arrangements were made for his education and training. In addition to criminal jurisdiction, the Children and Young Offenders Act, 1933, also conferred civil powers to juvenile court in certain important matters. The Act provided that any child and young person who committed a crime, should be summarily tried by a juvenile court.
The Act contemplated that before commencing the trial of juvenile delinquent, proper enquiries into his family background should be made in order to find out the probable cause of his delinquent conduct. However, this task is now assigned to probation officers who seek co-operation of the parents of the under-trial.
The trial of children and adolescents by a juvenile court could result into two consequences, namely—
(i) He could either be allowed to return to his home on being discharged, fined or on an undertaking of attendance at the Attendance Centre. Doubts have always been expressed about the justification for imposition of fine in cases of juveniles since it is the parents and not the delinquent child who are penalised under this mode of punishment. There seems no justification in punishing the parents unless, of course, there is a failure to exercise due care of the child on their part.
(ii) Another mode of treatment of young offender was to remove him from his home to a correctional institution or a Borstal.
The Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, provided for the establishment of Remand Homes in England for the treatment of children and young offenders. The children and adolescents below the age of seventeen were kept under observation in these Homes before their trial in a juvenile court. Similar arrangements were recommended for young adults between the age group of 17 and 21 by the English Criminal Justice Bill, 1938.
But the Bill could not be finally passed due to the outbreak of World War II. The Criminal Justice Act, 1948, however, provided certain degree of security to young adult offenders through Remand Homes.
Two Remand Centres were set up one each at Ashford and Middlesex in July 1961 for handling juvenile offenders who were in the age group of seventeen and twenty-one years of age. With the enactment of Criminal Justice Act, 1982 in U.K., the law relating to juveniles has been considerably liberalised in accordance with the guidelines set out by the U.N. Minimum Standard Rules for administering juvenile justice.