A coalition of children’s charities and penal reform groups is
calling for an overhaul of the youth justice system as parliament
debates the Criminal Justice Bill.
The group, which includes The Children’s Society, the National
Children’s Bureau and Nacro, have criticised the bill for failing
to consider the needs of young people in trouble with the
MP Hilton Dawson has tabled an amendment to the bill, supported by
the charities, to establish that custody is used only as a last
resort, that the welfare of the child is paramount, and decisions
are taken in the child’s best interests.
Meanwhile, the Youth Justice Board has highlighted that there
continues to be widespread disparities in the sentencing of
juvenile offenders in England and Wales, regardless of the gravity
of their offence.
According to the board’s latest statistics, which cover April to
September 2002, the average ratio in England and Wales is one
custodial sentence to eight community sentences. But juveniles in
London are more than than twice as likely to receive a custodial
sentence as those who live in the North East.
Board chairperson Lord Warner said: “We want the courts and youth
offending teams to use this information to look again and to learn
from comparisons with other similar areas.”