Delinquency And Welfare In London: 1939-1949

David F. Smith, University of Puget Sound


This paper examines the extent, causes and nature of juvenile delinquency in Metropolitan London during and immediately after World War II. In response to a rising number of children and young persons being sentenced in the Metropolitan Juvenile Courts, magistrates and experts at the London Country Council favoured the continuation of a welfarist approach to delinquency that had operated before the war. War conditions reinforced the view that delinquency was the result of familial and social deprivation that eschewed retributive punishment. An increasing number of children and teenagers, mainly girls and often in need of care and protection, appeared before the Metropolitan Juvenile Courts. These delinquents were increasingly regarded in terms of welfare rather than as juridical subjects. However, this penal-welfarist practice, which embraced the rehabilitation of delinquents, was periodically challenged, as psychological treatment was regarded with suspicion, and the corporal punishment of boys gained in popularity in wartime.