Too many children in prison says charity

More children are imprisoned in England and
Wales than any other European country, despite Home Office
statistics showing youth crime has fallen between 1993 and 2000, a
report says this week.

Legal powers designed to deal only with very
serious youth crime, such as murder and manslaughter, are being
used inappropriately to imprison children convicted of less serious
crimes, says the report from rehabilitation agency Nacro. It points
to circumstances where a 10-year-old child convicted of handling
stolen goods could now be tried in an adult crown court and
sentenced to a lengthy period in custody.

The current system for dealing with children
who have committed the most serious offences is overly legalistic
and the use of long-term detention does not comply with article 37
of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, it

Nacro calls for a limit to the length of
sentences passed in such cases as well as a more restricted
definition of what constitutes a grave crime. The report calls for
the creation of specialised youth courts with judges and
magistrates trained to respond to the needs of children.

Chairperson of Nacro’s committee on children
and crime Lord Alex Carlile said: “No child is considered
responsible enough to vote. Yet a child can be dragged through a
courtroom designed for adult offenders, and sentenced to many
years’ imprisonment from the age of 10.”

He added:”We need to develop responses to such
crimes that recognise that child offenders are children and should
be treated as such, not as adults deserving punishment.”

Children Who Commit Grave Crimes is
available from Nacro 020 7582 6500

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