Guidance may cut use of legal system

Campaigners hope new guidelines for police dealing with offending by children in care homes will cut the number of looked-after children entering the criminal justice system.

Police will have to treat children’s homes as domestic settings and care homes will be questioned on their behaviour management policies, under the draft guidelines issued for consultation by the Crown Prosecution Service.

The move follows concerns raised by magistrates and campaigners (news, 24 November) that looked-after children were being fast-tracked into the criminal justice system because care home staff were unable to manage their behaviour.

A survey by Cambridgeshire police in response to magistrates’ concerns found that 395 cases involving children in care homes went to court over 15 months.

The study, by Dave Glover, youth crime reduction co-ordinator for Cambridgeshire police and Cambridgeshire youth offending service, looked at cases from 36 care homes run by a mix of providers.

Glover said he was “shocked” that a number of children had not been in trouble before they entered residential care.

“Within 15 months many children became persistent young offenders, and every offence was committed in the home,” he added.

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