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Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams: Heavy Sentences Not Enough To Stop Return Of Riots

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ROWAN WILLIAMS
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned of "more outbreaks of futile anarchy" like this summer's riots unless the Government and society do more to rescue young people "who think they have nothing to lose".

Writing in The Guardian, Rowan Williams called for "youth-testing" of national and local government cuts and said that cutting the provision of youth services should be "manifestly indefensible".

He said he felt "enormous sadness" about the riots that erupted in London and spread across the country in August. Too many young people lived lives in which "anger and depression are almost the default setting" and valued themselves according to a "Darwinian hierarchy of style", he wrote.

The Archbishop said young people needed love and a dependable background for their lives so that they knew they did not "have to fight ceaselessly for recognition".

"We should be keeping a sharp eye on working practices that undermine this, and asking how law and society reinforce the right kinds of family stability by training in parenting skills as well as high quality out-of-school activity and care," he wrote.

"We should be challenging an educational philosophy too absorbed in meeting targets to shape character. And we should look long and hard at the assumptions we breed into our children about acquisition and individual material profit."

He said that it was important to avoid "demonising" young people and that criminalising them would reinforce the problem.

"Of course crime needs punishment, and limits of acceptable behaviour have to be set.

"The youth justice system has a good record in restorative justice that brings people up sharp against the human consequences of what they have done.

"We have the tools for something other than vindictive or exemplary penalties," he added.