British society should not view its young people with suspicion and hostility for their role in the summer riots, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.

In his New Year message to be telecast on the BBC, Dr Rowan Williams said that the events of the summer were horrific but the youngsters involved in the riots are a minority. "They showed us a face of our society we don't like to think about - angry, destructive, lawless. But it's crucial to remember that what we saw on the streets in August was just one facet of a bigger and much more heartbreaking problem," he said.

He added: "They are a minority of their generation - the minority whose way of dealing with their frustrations was by way of random destructiveness and irritability. Most people of their own age strongly shared the general feeling of dismay at this behaviour."

The Archbishop has lauded the role played by charities like the Kids' Company, London, in helping youngsters develop themselves on the right track. "A lot of young people are joining together to pack food parcels for needy families in the neighbourhood. When you see the gifts they can offer, the energy that can be released when they feel safe and loved, you see what a tragedy we so often allow to happen."

Williams said that youngsters should not be driven to further unhappiness and anxiety by only showing them suspicion and negativity. "A good New Year's Resolution might be to think what you can do locally to support facilities for young people, to support opportunities for counselling and learning and enjoyment in a safe environment," he added.