Former Youth Justice Board chair Rod Morgan has called for a major reform of the youth justice system in order to reverse soaring increases in the number of children and young people being criminalised.
Speaking at a conference by children’s welfare charity The Michael Sieff Foundation, Morgan said that custody should only be used as a last resort. “We need to make it a scarce, last ditch resource as we agreed it should be when we signed up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,” he added.
Morgan resigned as Youth Justice Board chair earlier this year after warning of a “meltdown” in the youth custody system due to a record number of children being locked up. He told the conference that there was evidence that treating minor offenders as criminals increased the likelihood of further offending.
The need to take children with mental health problems out of the criminal justice system and the need to abandon police targets for arresting young offenders was also highlighted during the speech. He further called for schools to be given a greater role in dealing with antisocial behaviour and minor offending.
Despite the criticisms Morgan said that he had high hopes of Gordon Brown’s cabinet and that there was a “mood for change”. “I believe that the new team of ministers wishes to tackle these issues,” he continued. “I sense that the new Department for Children, Schools and Families appreciates that reducing youth crime is as much a matter for them as the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice.”