“Young lives are being ruined by a destructive system” – SCYJ responds to Justice Select Committee Report on childhood criminal records

“Young lives are being ruined by a destructive system” – SCYJ responds to Justice Select Committee Report on childhood criminal records
Should minor childhood mistakes lead to a life sentence? That’s what happens to thousands every year.  A 10-year-old twice convicted of stealing sweets still has that criminal record fifty years later – and she’ll have to disclose it for life to work as a traffic warden.

The Justice Select Committee’s report into the punitive childhood criminal records system in England and Wales is published today, adding to calls from the Lammy Review, and the government’s own review of the youth justice system, for reform of the childhood criminal records system. Responding to the report, Chair of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, Ali Wigzell, said:

“A system that creates barriers to children turning their lives around is destructive and not in the interests of society. It urgently needs to change.

“Young lives are being ruined by a ham-fisted and draconian criminal records regime that goes far beyond what is necessary to protect the public.

“This is the third expert body to urge reform of the childhood criminal records system in less than a year. The government should listen to its experts, stop wasting taxpayers’ money on fighting its unnecessary legal case – which has cost at least £160,000 so far – and take immediate action to reform the system instead.”

SCYJ has been working to improve the childhood criminal records system for the past 18 months. We represent 50 non-profit organisations, and, in addition, 30 other organisations have signed up to our principles for improving the childhood criminal records system. Our members are:

1625 Independent People; Addaction; The Association of Panel Members; The Association of YOT Managers; Barnardo’s; Become; The Care Leavers Association; Carney’s Community; Catch 22; Centre for Justice Innovation; Centre for Mental Health; The Criminal Justice Alliance; CLINKS; The Children’s Rights Alliance for England; Depaul UK; The Diagrama Foundation; The Howard League for Penal Reform; Intermediaries for Justice; Just for Kids Law; Justice; Kinetic Youth; Leap Confronting Conflict; Michael Sieff Foundation; NACRO; National Appropriate Adults Network; The National Association for Youth Justice; The National Children’s Bureau; NSPCC; Peer Power; The Prison Reform Trust; The Prisoner Education Trust; Reflex; The Restorative Justice Council; Restorative Solutions; Secure Accommodation Network; Spark Inside; TACT; The Children’s Society; The Traveller Movement; Transform Justice; Unlock; User Voice; Volunteering Matters; Wipe the Slate Clean; Youth at Risk and YSS.

In addition, the following organisations endorse the principle of childhood criminal record reform:

Centrepoint; The Royal Society for Public Health; City & Guilds; Stop Watch; The Child Rights International Network; Young Health Movement; Trailblazers; Working Chance; Chance2013; Khulisa; Sova; Young Women’s Trust; Learning Partnership West; Creative Youth Network; Singing Works; PenOptical Trust; Results; 3 Pillars Project; Vision Housing; Blue Sky Development; Women in Prison; Wipers Youth CIC; Nia; The Footprints Project; Night-safe; Galvin’s Chance (a programme of DM Thomas Foundation for Young People); Pecan, Moving On; Bardsley Youth Project; Sport4Life; Voyage Youth.

For more information or interview requests, please contact: Anna Boehm on: a.boehm@scyj.org.uk, 07481 855 127; or Penelope Gibbs on 07906 098 686 or penelope.gibbs@gmail.com 

Notes to Editors
1. The Standing Committee for Youth Justice (SCYJ) is an alliance of almost 50 non-profit organisations campaigning for a better youth justice system. More information on our campaign to reform the childhood criminal records system is available here. 
2. In 2016, SCYJ published a report by Claire Sands comparing the treatment of childhood criminal records in 16 jurisdictions, including all those in the UK. It is available here.
3. In 2017, SCYJ published a report setting out the case for reform of the childhood criminal records system in England and Wales, and detailed recommendations for reform. It is available here.  
4. In September 2015 Charlie Taylor was asked to lead a departmental review of the youth justice system for the Ministry of Justice. The Taylor Review, published in December 2016, recommended significant reform of the childhood criminal records system, including reducing disclosure of police intelligence, shortening rehabilitation periods, and preventing many childhood cautions and convictions from being disclosed once they are “spent”. Mr Taylor’s report is available here, paragraphs 82-89 cover criminal records reform.
5. In 2016 the then Prime Minister David Cameron asked David Lammy MP to conduct a review into bias against Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic In September 2017 the Lammy Review was published, and included recommendations to introduce a system of “sealing” criminal records, with a presumption “to look favourably on those who committed crimes either as children or young adults but can demonstrate that they have changed since their conviction”. The report is available here. 
6.    In May 2017, the Court of Appeal found against the Government in the case R (P, G and W) v Secretary of State for the Home Department and others [2017] EWCA Civ 321. The case was about the legality of the criminal records filtering system, particularly the “multiple conviction rule and the serious offence rule”, which the Court found to be incompatible with the Human Right to privacy. The Government intends to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
7. In May 2017, SCYJ made a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office on the cost of litigating P, R (on the application of) The Secretary of State for the Home Department & Anor [2017] EWCA Civ 321. In its response, the Home Office reported that more than £157,000 had been spent as of June 2017, however, “A number of counsel fee notes in relation to work done remain outstanding and so this sum should not be considered final.” In addition, the Home Office noted, “these sums relate to costs incurred in the litigation and are exclusive of costs orders made by the High Court and the Court of Appeal requiring payment of the other parties’ legal costs (including publicly funded costs). These have not yet been assessed or agreed.”
8. Considerably more costs will be incurred in appealing the case of R to the Supreme Court, as the government intends to do.