SCYJ is a membership body working to improve the youth justice system in England and Wales. We pool the expertise of our members to address issues surrounding children in trouble with the law. Our work focuses on policy and legislation affecting all aspects of the youth justice system and young people caught up in it – from policing to resettlement.
We advocate a child-focused youth justice system that promotes the integration of children in trouble with the law into society and tackles the underlying causes of offending. Such a system would serve the best interests of the children themselves and the community at large.
SCYJ’s Directors are elected annually to plan and oversee the work of the Committee. Currently we have six Directors, they are:
Ali Wigzell - Chair
Ali Wigzell is the current Chair of SCYJ. Ali is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR) at Birkbeck, University of London. She joined ICPR in 2012 having spent three years as a senior researcher at the think tank the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), leading their work on youth justice.
Youth justice is Ali’s area of research specialism. Her work in the field includes a major review of youth justice at the CSJ, and the report of the Parliamentarians’ Inquiry into the Operation and Effectiveness of the Youth Court, which was chaired by Lord Carlile.
Ali is currently studying for a Ph.D in Criminology at the University of Cambridge. Her PhD is an ethnography of youth justice supervision and the role of young person-worker relationships in facilitating desistance. She is a guest lecturer on youth justice at Birkbeck, University of London. Ali is also a Trustee of the National Association of Youth Justice, a Fellow of the CSJ and an Advisory Board Member of Peer Power UK.
Penelope Gibbs - Deputy Chair
Penelope Gibbs is the current Deputy Chair of SCYJ. Penelope is currently Director of Transform Justice. Prior to this she was Director of the Out of Trouble programme for the Prison Reform Trust. This five year programme, funded by The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, seeks to reduce the number of children and young people imprisoned in the UK. Penelope worked for the Prison Reform Trust for five years. Previously Penelope worked for the charity TimeBank and for the BBC, and sat as a magistrate.
Joanne Cecil - Secretary
Joanne Cecil is a barrister and combines serious crime and public law practice with criminal justice related judicial reviews and civil litigation in the civil liberties sphere. She has a strong appellate practice both domestically and internationally, appearing at all levels including the Supreme Court. Most recently she was instructed by Just For Kids Law in the joint enterprise case of Jogee before the Supreme Court. Joanne has developed an expertise in strategic litigation and acting for intervenors. She has been instructed in every significant test case at the appellate levels concerning juvenile justice in recent years, resulting in significant changes to the law. She is currently instructed by the FCO and separately the EU and Council of Europe in two seminal US Supreme Court criminal cases. Previously instructed by the EU, Council of Europe in Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (Juvenile death penalty ruled unconstitutional)
Her expertise in criminal justice can be seen in her appointment as an Independent Commissioner on the Legal Aid Review Commission (the Bach Commission). She is also as an elected member of the Criminal Bar Association, Bar Human Rights Commission and has been appointed to the FCO Consular Panel for expert assistance in criminal cases in overseas jurisdictions. Prior to being called to the Bar of England and Wales, she worked for several years in Washington, DC. and has extensive experience in international human rights cases. She continues to consult on human rights issues to governments, international organisations (e.g. EU, UNICEF, UN) and NGOs.
Tony Book - Treasurer
For the past 29 years, Tony Book has served as a magistrate at Brighton magistrates’ court where he chaired both Adult and Youth sittings and for many years has been an appraiser helping to maintain high standards throughout both East and West Sussex.
More recently was he was a Youth Panel Vice Chair and Appraisal Coordinator for the Central Sussex Bench. He has extensive experience in the private sector, including at Lever Brothers and American Express. He was founder and chief executive of Compass Consultancy, specialising in Database marketing techniques and has held a variety of senior positions at Riomay Ltd – a renewable energy company. In a number of other roles, Tony has worked to promote renewable energy, including Chairing the UK section of the International Solar Energy Society (ISES) and sitting on its World Board. He has longstanding experience of community service, including working as a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Ambassador, a school governor, a gateway assessor at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, a magistrate, and being a member of the University of Brighton’s Medical School Fitness to Practice committee.
Steve Case is a Professor of Criminology at Loughborough University, specialising in research and scholarship focused on building positive, ‘children first’ models of youth justice.
He has served as a practice-facing and impact-focused academic for nearly 20 years, and has broad experience of policy/practice development, user engagement, funding acquisition, theoretical and conceptual leadership in the field and dissemination of his ideas to a range of audiences in a variety of formats (including media).
John Drew was Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales from 2009 to 2013 and prior to that had spent a decade as a Director of Social Services and Housing in the east London borough of Redbridge. John had worked as a children’s social work, principally in the areas of children in care, in need of protection, or who were offending, since 1974, qualifying as a social worker at the University of Sheffield in 1978. John was appointed a C.B.E. for services to youth justice in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2013.
During John’s period as the Chief Executive of the YJB, he led (with the Chair, Frances Done) a repositioning of the YJB that amongst other things contributed significantly to the reduction, (by 55%) of the number of children held in custody in that time.
Since retiring in 2013, John has taken on a number of non-executive and part-time roles. He is, currently, a Visiting Professor at the University of Bedfordshire; chairs the Medway Safeguarding Children’s Board; co-chairs the North East London Children’s Resettlement Consortia; is a Board member of East Thames Housing Association; and works with the Prison Reform Trust as a Senior Associate. John is a trustee of the Social Research Unit at Dartington and Deputy Chair (and chair elect) of the Criminal Justice Alliance.
In 2015/16, John led the Independent Review of South Yorkshire Police’s response to child sexual exploitation, and was Secretary to the Independent Review of the criminalisation of looked after children, the Laming Review.
Lesley Tregear has been actively involved in youth justice since 1992 when she joined the Warwickshire Juvenile Justice Team as a social worker, later becoming the operations manager in this and then the Warwickshire Youth Offending Team. She contributed to many national developments in youth justice during this time including work with the Youth Justice Board on a number of secondments and project management of a national project on behalf of the ODPM.
In 2009 she became the Warwickshire YOT Manager which became one of the highest performing YOTs; reducing first time entrants, re-offending rates and custody for children in Warwickshire. Due to her commitment and skill in partnership working Lesley was responsible for developing the Family Intervention Service in Warwickshire which later became the foundation of the Troubled Families programme in Warwickshire. In 2016 she implemented the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub for children and adults in Warwickshire.
Committed to ongoing professional development for herself and others, Lesley became a LGA accredited peer coach and a peer review team leader.
Lesley was Chair of the Association of YOT Managers (AYM) from 2016 until her retirement from Warwickshire Youth Justice Service in July 2018, actively working to improve policy development and practice for children involved with the criminal justice system and challenging national developments in youth justice that did not seek to support the needs of children.
Di Hart worked for many years as a social worker and manager in children’s services before moving into a research and development post with the National Children’s Bureau. In that role, Di was responsible for the development of better practice with children involved in both the welfare and justice system. Projects included a study of looked after children in custody, the approach to children in breach of their order and managing the transition from secure care. These resulted in a number of publications designed to influence policy and front-line practice.
Di now works on a freelance and voluntary basis focussing particularly on secure care and recently undertook a Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship to see what could be learned from other countries about the treatment of children in custody. Di is a long-standing member of the NAYJ and has an ongoing commitment to a ‘child first’ response to children in trouble.
As a youth worker and youth work manager and leader Gess Aird has contributed significantly to young people’s lives in her career spanning over 20 years. Specialising in youth participation Gess campaigned for the voice of children and young people to be heard in the development and delivery of services. Over the last ten years Gess also specialised in the delivery of youth work within youth justice, including the development of children and young people’s participation. Gess has worked in more than 15 local authorities across the country working with professionals within youth work and youth justice to improve their offer to and involvement of children and young people.
Gess now runs a national social enterprise (Kinetic Youth Ltd) delivering youth work services to young people housed within the secure estate. Having done this for almost ten years, Gess, and her fellow Director colleague, have increased the organisation from delivering a small project in a YOI, to delivering large services, within multiple contracts, to all YOI’s, and a number of STC’s, SCH’s and into the adult estate working with young offenders.
As part of her work as a national champion for youth work, youth participation and the importance of these within youth justice, Gess has worked with colleagues from the YJB, MoJ, NOMS and the new Youth Custody Service. Her work as not only supported the implemented of systems to enable children and young people to improve front line services, it has also been instrumental in the development of youth work within the secure estate and in improving the value of youth work within youth justice.