Failure to end custody for all children draws criticism from campaigners

Government plans for the future of youth justice do not go far
enough, campaigners in the sector have warned.

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform,
acknowledged the government had got some things right, but said
overall its response to the youth justice consultation, published
last week alongside the Children Bill, was “an act of some

Crook said she would have liked to have seen the government put an
end to the use of custody for all children, building on recent
measures to reduce the prison population and to remove 15 and
16-year-old girls from jails.

However, she welcomed the proposal to treat 17-year-olds on remand
or bail as juveniles rather than adult offenders.

Tim Bateman, Nacro’s senior policy development officer, agreed,
saying the proposal addressed an anomaly that had previously drawn
criticism from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and
would permit 17-year-olds who were refused bail to be remanded to
local authority accommodation in the same way as younger

The rehabilitation agency also welcomed plans to reduce the use of
custody through the introduction of alternative community sentences
for young people who offend seriously or persistently.

However, the charity said it had grave concerns about reducing the
criteria for 12- to 14-year-old children to be given detention and
training orders, a fear echoed around the sector.

Rob Allen, director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment, said that
while it was encouraging that the government had made it clear the
courts must take account of the child’s welfare when sentencing,
making more young people eligible for imprisonment “was not a good

He said he would have liked to have seen the introduction of a
mechanism to allow the criminal courts to transfer cases where
children had suffered family problems such as abuse to the family
court where the child could be dealt with through civil
proceedings. This omission amounted to “a missed opportunity”, he

– Youth Justice – the Next Steps: Summary of Responses and the
Government’s Proposals

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