Based on a research study carried out during the period 1985-1988 in six court areas in the North and North East of England, this book aims to place the "social information question" in the English juvenile court at the centre of current debates in juvenile justice. It examines how magistrates perce ive the social background of the defendants who appear before them in the juvenile court, how these perceptions are produced by, and in turn produce, the nature of sentencing in the juvenile court. It argues that juvenile offenders are sentenced on the basis of images of their lives which probably bear little relationship to the lived reality of those lives. The book also discusses the construction of knowledge in organizational life, magisterial decision-making, and exercise of power within and beyond the boundaries of the courtroom. It attempts to show how the individual, rendered powerless during the sentencing process, is successively displaced and reconstructed as a "case" like any other; a "case" which has a central significance in the social production of surveillance and control.