By ANDREW BOYLE A LONDON East End priest and a woman magistrate have
singled out two forgotten factors in the current wave of violent crimes committed by Britain's so-called "cosh kids." Those factors, in utter contrast, are Press hysteria and the complacency of many Catholics.
But Canon Thomas Fitzgerald, experienced parish priest in London's poor Commercial Road parish—who recently up. held his people's right to gamble in moderation—and Mrs. Dermot Morrah, magistrate at Tower Bridge Juvenile Court, are just as concerned with direct and deeper causes.
The broken home, the mother-atwork, and a shrinking community spirit are, in their view, much nearer the heart of this urgent social problem than noisy controversy about birching.
Said Mrs. Morrah this week : "11 the newspapers would ignore the young criminal instead of puffing up his self-importance by paying him too much attention, I'm sure these crimes would lessen.
" I think there's far too much unwarranted fuss in the Press."
One case she dealt with recently involved a girl of 15 whose face had been slashed by young hooligans " for no apparent reason at all."
Yet on the whole there had been comparatively few serious crimes of late. " Most of the youngsters who hand out violence are too old for the Juvenile Court, " I believe that we touch only the fringe of the hrutality question. The children coming before us are mainly
accessories. They keep a look-out for the police and give warnings to the older toughs.
" I am, however, appalled by the number of Catholic cases I have to consider on the Bench," she said.
And Canon Fitzgerald, skilled youth organiser whose profound knowledge of the difficulties is drawn from dual membership of the management hoard of a Jewish Approved School and of a London County Council committee on juvenile delinquency, stated firmly
" We Catholics tend to lose sight of the fact that like other people we are creatures of our environment. This is something too many of us are extraordinarily complacent about, and with no right at all to be so."
Three basic reasons were advanced by Canon Fitzgerald for the seemingly high proportion of young criminals in the country today.
"The first is the broken home." he said, " and here the statistics speak clearly. In the Approved School with which I'm associated a recent check showed that 78 per cent. of the boys came from such homes.
"Mark you, it's no solution simply to condemn the parents in these cases. Some of them no doubt arc themselves the products of broken homes. Even good parents often lack the advice and help which might save something from the wreck before it's too late.
" The second reason is one which Cardinal Griffin has emphasised in work.or k .: the encouragement given to women to leave home and go out to
" When the mother is away, the children will roam about at will and land themselves in mischief sooner or later. And I am certain that play centres and clubs are a very poor substitute for lack of parental control."
In Canon Fitzgerald's eyes, evacuation and the steady movement from slum areas to new housing estates have had the effect of slowly eating away the "community spirit." That