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The Welfare and Rights of Children

Are Offenders Excluded?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 April 2023

Jens Scherpe
Affiliation:
Aalborg University, Denmark
Stephen Gilmore
Affiliation:
King's College London
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Summary

1. INTRODUCTION

A postgraduate student went to her first postgraduate conference run by the Society of Legal Scholars (then the Society of Public Teachers of Law) in, I think, 1985. She had recently done an MA in Sociology and Law (and a history degree in the 1960s) so knew a bit – a very small bit – about thinking on children’s rights and sociolegal theory. Her short talk must have been about divorce mediation – conciliation, as it then was – because that was the focus of her doctoral work, and the chair for that session was John Eekelaar. The student was, of course, me, and I recall that John was pleasant and did not look askance at my first attempt to do a paper. In retrospect, I realise how kind it was of him to take time to chair papers in a postgraduate conference, and to take us all seriously. For me, that was important.

I had, by then, read the article that John and two colleagues had written in 1982. This led me to what may now seem an obvious fact, but was to me then a blinding flash: that how a person, in this case a child, was perceived and labelled made a great difference to how they were treated. Being seen as a victim could lead to help, and being seen as a threat or offender often led to punishment and prison, and so the image of the child that had been constructed made a world of difference. I am grateful for that understanding, because it formed the basis of much of my own work.

Another article by John, with Robert Dingwall, was also helpful because, by then teaching in a Law School, I had not realised, green as I was, that I could use my background in history to critique legal developments. This was a few years before the Socio-Legal Studies Association was founded, in 1990, and I had thought I needed to write only ‘pure’ law. I am very grateful for that, too.

Of equal importance was my introduction to exceptionally clear thinking about children’s rights via the article Eekelaar had written in 1986, ‘The Emergence of Children’s Rights’, prompted by the important Richards and Gillick cases.

Type
Chapter
Information
Family Matters
Essays in Honour of John Eekelaar
, pp. 705 - 722
Publisher: Intersentia
Print publication year: 2022

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