A coalition of children’s charities and pressure groups has called
for a high-profile, child-focused review of the youth justice
system in England and Wales.
A report from Barnardo’s, the Children’s Society, Howard League for
Penal Reform, Nacro, National Children’s Bureau, NCH, NSPCC and the
National Association for Youth Justice also calls for an effective
child-centred system to be established to “sustain national and
“Successive governments have tinkered with the youth justice system
for years, which has led to a plethora of complex, contradictory
legislation,” said Sharon Moore, the Children’s Society’s principal
policy and practice manager.
The current system has a poor record of compliance with legal
obligations regarding children’s human rights, is not sufficiently
distinct from the adult criminal justice system and is not designed
or administered with enough focus on children’s needs. Last year,
the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child criticised
the UK’s poor record.
The report suggests that there are several problematic issues that
are symptomatic of these core failings: custody is not used as a
measure of last resort, responses to children in trouble are overly
punitive and there is a tendency to criminalise children
unnecessarily and at younger ages.
The group suggests that a review should look at providing a system
that is distinct from the criminal justice system for adults and
how children should be held in secure accommodation only as a
measure of last resort.
Further research to be undertaken next year will look at other
country’s youth justice systems.
– Children in Trouble: Time for Change from www.barnardos.org.uk