SCYJ response to Justice Select Committee inquiry on court reform

SCYJ responded to the Justice Select Committee inquiry into the Access to Justice impacts of courts and tribunals reform.

Our response focuses on the HMCTS Reform Programme in the criminal courts as it affects child defendants, especially on the use of video links and online pleas.

We believe the use of video links and online pleas, along with the closure of courts, will negatively impact access to justice for children in trouble with the law. We are concerned by the approach taken by HMCTS, such as the lack of research, impact assessment, information sharing, public consultation and stakeholder engagement on key elements of the reform programme. When the programme began there appeared to be a complete lack of consideration of the needs of children as a distinct and vulnerable group, although we believe they are now taking some steps to address this.

Read our response here.

, ,

SCYJ welcomes new members in 2019

The SCYJ has welcomed four new organisations as members in early 2019: Street Doctors, Safer London Foundation, Centrepoint and the Justice Studio.

StreetDoctors is a charity that changes the lives of high risk young people by giving them the skills they need to deliver life-saving first aid. They use first aid as a tool to educate and empower young people, giving them the confidence and a sense of responsibility for their actions, helping to change their attitude towards violence. More information here.

Safer London is the leading London charity working to prevent and address gang violence, vulnerability and sexual exploitation. They provide needs led intensive support, early intervention and mentoring through our extensive, pan London services. You can find out more here.

Centrepoint is the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity. Together with their partners, they support more than 10,000 homeless young people each year. Centrepoint help vulnerable young people by giving them the practical and emotional support they need to find a job and live independently. More information here.

The Justice Studio provide intelligence services to enable unions of nations, governments, and not-for-profit organisations better promote social justice. Their objective is to champion the rights and voices of their clients’ beneficiaries, including children and young people, those in the criminal justice system and those facing discrimination or inequitable situations. You can find out more here.

The SCYJ and our existing members look forward to collaborating with these organisations to promote more effective responses to children in trouble with the law.

Childhood criminal records: recent developments

Following a long-awaited judgment by the Supreme Court, cross-party parliamentary support for changes to the childhood criminal records system has been refocused.

Government loses criminal records disclosure case Supreme Court appeal – On Wednesday 30th January the Supreme Court handed down its judgment on the landmark criminal record disclosure case, announcing that the Government lost their appeal. The Judges ruled that the current disclosure system is disproportionate in two ways: by requiring disclosure of more than one convictions even if they were minor, and by failing to distinguish between warnings and reprimands issued to children, as opposed to convictions. The Government must now reform the system in line with the judgment.

SCYJ members Unlock and Just for Kids Law, who have been involved in the case, welcomed the announcement, issuing statements on their websites.

Following the judgment, SCYJ held a parliamentary roundtable hosted by David Lammy MP on the need to improve the childhood criminal record system, looking beyond the issues covered by the court case and examining the flaws that run deep throughout the current regime. The meeting heard from organisations and MPs who have been instrumental in the work towards these improvements and discussed the next steps to work together to achieve a system that promotes the rehabilitation and reintegration of children in trouble with the law.

Westminster Hall Debate – On Thursday 28th March MPs debated the Justice Select Committee inquiry report on disclosure of childhood criminal records. Chair of the Committee, Bob Neill, paid tribute to SCYJ and SCYJ member Unlock during his opening remarks, and other MPs highlighted our work during the debate. Youth Justice Minister Edward Argar stated he considers SCYJ’s input very carefully. Overall there was widespread agreement of the need for reform of the criminal record system. Neill has also written to Justice Secretary David Gauke asking what steps he is taking to ensure that the Disclosure and Barring Service suspends without delay the elements of the current regime deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court, and how and when he proposes to review the regime. Gauke responded that the MoJ and Home Office are considering the Supreme Court’s judgment and will respond once they have agreed next steps.