Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Posts Tagged ‘youth justice

Children Across the Justice Systems

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This was the title of an extremely important and interesting lecture, given by Sir James Munby, President of the Family Court, to the Howard League for Penal Reform at the end of October 2017

What, it might be asked, was our leading family judge doing talking to those whose interest is in the criminal justice system?

Sir James used his lecture as an opportunity to argue for a new approach to the treatment of young people who come into contact with the criminal justice and penal systems. He sets out with admirable clarity what he sees as the main problems with  current arrangements, including:  the very complex set of institutions with which the young offender may come into contact; the huge variety of government departments – both central and local – charged with developing and delivering policy in relation to young offender; and the inconsistency of approach of different agencies towards how young offenders and their families should be dealt with.

Sir James argues that, in this context, family justice and criminal justice should be brought together. Specifically, he argues that the role of the Family Drug and Alcohol Court should be expanded to enable it to take on cases which are currently dealt with in the Youth Court.

He recognizes that such a development would represent a big policy change and could not come into being in the short-term. He therefore also proposes interim measures that might go someway towards meeting the objective he has outlined.

So far as I am aware,the Government is not currently contemplating such a major change, but I think Sir James offers ideas that should be carefully considered.

The lecture is available at https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/speech-pfd-children-across-the-justice-systems.pdf

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Written by lwtmp

November 8, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Reform of the Youth Justice System

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In 2007, the average monthly number of persons under the age of 18 held in custody was 2909. Today that average monthly figure is about 900. Generally far fewer young people are brought into the criminal justice system than was the case 10 years ago.

At first sight it might seem that these dramatic falls in numbers – which do not  get much publicity – should be a good news story. But it is not as simple as the. The figures mask other problems about the overall state of the youth justice system. Once children and young people are in custody the outcomes are not good enough. Levels of violence and self-harm are too great and reoffending rates are unacceptably high.  69% of those sentenced to custody going on to commit further offences within a year of their release.

This raises questions about what more can be done to ensure that young people do not enter the system in the first place, and if they do are given every opportunity to turn their lives around by receiving appropriate education and training to enable them to start leading productive lives in society.

The Government has taken a number of measure to address these problems.

In 2016, they commissioned Charlie Taylor – a former head teacher and child care expert – to undertake a review of the Youth justice system. His report was published in December 2016. The Government’s response to his report was published on the same day.

In a written statement to Parliament on 24 February, the Government now announced the next steps it is taking in response to that review.

First, it has appointed Charlie Taylor to be the new Chair of the Youth Justice Board – so that he can oversee the reforms he advocated.

Second the Government has announced that a new Youth Custody Service is to be established as a distinct arm of HM Prison and Probation Service, with a dedicated Director accountable directly to the Chief Executive.

Third there has been (yet another) review of the physical estate used for the detention of under 18s. It states bluntly that the time for reports is over – all those who know about this accept that the estate is not up to modern standards. What is needed is action to improve the estate.

Perhaps by comparison with the huge problems facing the prison service more generally – which new proposals for reform of the prison system are designed to address – youth justice is an issue on which it is hard to attract attention from the mass media. But it seems plausible to suggest that if you get the youth justice system working effectively, you may be able to reduce some of the pressures that might arise further down the line.

The Charlie Wilson Review is at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-the-youth-justice-system

The Government response to the report is at the same page.

A summary of the Justice Secretary’s statement to Parliament is at https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/youth-justice-update.

The report on the youth justice estate is at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/youth-custody-improvement-board-findings-and-recommendations

 

Written by lwtmp

February 26, 2017 at 12:09 pm