South Yorkshire’s top judge has called for children to be removed from dysfunctional homes to end the ‘frightening’ cycle of crime.
On his retirement, Judge Alan Goldsack QC, Recorder of Sheffield, said he had been dealing with the grandchildren of criminals he prosecuted or defended 40 years ago.
“Some people become criminals because they enjoy crime and think it’s a good way of life and if they don’t get caught they think they can have a good lifestyle,” he said.
“But a frightening thing is the number of people I see who are the grandchildren of the people I have prosecuted and defended 40 years ago – because crime runs in families in the same way that being a doctor, teacher or lawyer does.
“We have to get in on the ground and remove young babies from the families that are going to produce the next generation of criminals, and that is why I did family law right up until the end because I think it is very important work.
“I have read so many pre-sentence reports where I said to myself ‘Why was this person not adopted at birth? All the signs were there’.”
Judge Goldsack, who is retiring after 43 years in the legal profession, added: “A huge proportion of people that we see at court are products of the so-called care system and a huge proportion of those in prison are a product of that so-called care system.
“Family is all important if you want to prevent people becoming criminals – a stable family life prevents most people from becoming criminals.
“The care system is not working as well as it should be by a long chalk.
“Once children get beyond the age of four or five, what do you do if you bring that child into the care system?
“There is a shortage of parents wanting to adopt children of that age or above, so only a few will be found homes, and if you a child you leave until they are nine or 10 the care system can’t do much for them at all – they can end up going back home because there is nowhere else to put them.
“Children removed from home at 11 or 12 will invariably end up in a children’s home, which is why we have to get in early. It’s not uncommon for a dysfunctional family to have £250,000 spent on them, but if we got in early and removed children from these homes we could save thousands.”
Judge Goldsack also called for criminals to be given extra support once they are released from custody.
“Prison works in the sense that while offenders are inside they are not robbing people in the street, burgling homes or getting drunk and committing violence but one area which could improve is the amount of rehabilitation work available.
“A few years ago people that used to go to prison came out sufficiently literate to get a job, but it’s different now.
“People doing short sentences are not getting the rehabilitation – some don’t get further than the nearest pub when they are released and they spend the £46 given on release and within hours they can be committing a burglary.”