What shall we do when a 11-year old boy is given an 18-month rehabilitation order for stealing a bin worth £50?

I learned yesterday of a 11-year old boy that was given an 18-month rehabilitation order for his behaviour during the riots in London last month. The kid stole a bin worth £50 from the Debenhams in Romford (see picture from The Guardian), just five months after receiving a referral order for arson, carrying a pointed instrument and criminal damage.

This is not an anecdotal case. It actually responds to PM Cameron’s demand for a harsh judicial response to the rioters, who are deemed to constitute a ‘sick’ part of society. As Naomi Wolf notes in a recent article in Project Syndicate, Cameron’s statements remind us of Charles Dickens’ England, where

the judiciary was not independent, and newspapers were subject to state censorship. Kids (like Oliver Twist) were punished in ways designed to break them; poor people convicted of relatively minor offenses were transported to Australia, or given publicly humiliating forms of punishment; police had unchecked and violent power over the poor.

The official response to the riots in the UK neglects any links between social conditions and criminality. Instead, control measures and punitive regulatory regimes are imposed. There is an increasing amount or research conducted around social control policies. See, for instance, ‘Governing poverty: risking rights?’ dialogue in Open Democracy. However, a considerable gap exists between those engaged in research and theory and those engaged in human rights advocacy and policy. In 2010, the ICHRP issued the insightful report Modes and Patterns of Social Control: Implications for Human Rights Policy. Understanding and tackling the connections between neoliberal economic policy, punitive criminality and the crisis of welfare state must be a priority for human rights advocates.

Koldo Casla



5 thoughts on “What shall we do when a 11-year old boy is given an 18-month rehabilitation order for stealing a bin worth £50?

  1. In response to your questions, not necessarily and not necessarily, in that order! But, I don’t think the fact that the rioters were not necessarily the poor not the targets necessarily the rich means that this does not boil down to an issue of social inequality driving social problems. First, I think social inequality is not simply evidence of a socio-economic problems but also of the moral base of a society. Vast inequality is usually obtained through vast exploitation, manipulation, corruption, or an intentional disregard for the most vulnerable in society. This may not always be true, but I think it has been true in the U.K. (and U.S.) recently/

    Second, when a society’s wealthiest do receive benefits and allowances that no middle-class or working-class individual or family could hope for, and those benefits come at a cost, often to middle-class and working-class individuals and families, AND it becomes clear that it also comes through an ill-gotten process (lying about or making unreasonable expense claims; investing in a way designed to damage the economy; wire-tapping or fraud) it creates a culture in which the consumption and receipt of property is more important the work or process through which one receives that property. It creates a “me first” and a “I’ll get mine” attitude that permeates society. Those who have otherwise watched others rise through socio-economic ladders through illegality or immorality eventually tire of not having the goods their peers gain not through work but through manipulation. At some point, rebellion against the rules is a natural reaction and when it is as wide-spread as it was in the U.K., I think it is symptomatic not of an individual’s moral decline but that of the collective society’s.

  2. I’m aghast that there are bins worth £50. No wonder there were riots in the UK when some people spend more on the bins they use to throw trash out in than others are able to spend on food in a month. That social inequity is going to continue to drive social problems.

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