Do the rights thing

29th March 1996 at 00:00
The teenager's guide to the law, By Gabrielle Jan Posner, Pounds 8.95 Cavendish Publishing. From the age of seven we can open a National Savings Bank account and at 12 we can buy a pet or see a 12-Category film. But rights and responsibilities come thick and fast in the teenage years, until 18 when we become adults, although we can't stand for Parliament or adopt a child until we are 21.

Given the increase in youth contact with the police and the general need for young people to understand and exercise their rights, The Teenager's Guide to the Law, is very welcome. It covers all aspects of life, home, school, local authority care, and what happens if a young person is charged with a crime. In short, there is something for everyone at some time.

This is a reference book rather than a chatty read, so it's more likely to be a useful addition to the school or public library than a welcome present. Explanations are clear but some teenagers will need help from the teacher or librarian to look things up. An index would have made it easier to find the relevant section or to look up a small point; but the contents pages are full and there are good cross-references in the text.

The author, Gabrielle Posner, is a barrister specialising in family law who has consulted other specialists such as the Children's Legal Centre. She also works as a volunteer for Release, the drugs information agency.

The chapter on drugs is particularly useful in the light of the widespread temptation and opportunity for young people to take illegal drugs.

Apparently schools cannot insist that pupils undergo drugs tests. The book lists organisations to which teenagers can turn for specialist information and advice, including Childline, the Anti-Bullying Campaign, Survivors of Sexual Abuse and The Eating Disorders Association. Adopted teenagers wanting to trace their natural parents are put on the right track. Two detailed case studies show how to assert your rights when you buy faulty goods or are injured on your bicycle.

Information breeds confidence and this book encourages young people to know their rights and take up issues. Youth workers, form tutors and teachers of personal and social education will also find it useful.

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