SCYJ responds to Justice Select Committee inquiry on children in custody

SCYJ responded to the Justice Select Committee inquiry into children and young people in custody.

Our response covers a range of topics including custody as a last resort; Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) children in custody; the harm of the secure estate; staffing; restraint; placements; and resettlement.

Read our full response here.

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SCYJ responds to Home Office consultation on Knife Crime Prevention Order guidance

The SCYJ welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Home Office consultation on the Knife Crime Prevention Order (KCPO) guidance.

We worked closely with the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) and a cross-sector alliance during the parliamentary stages of the Offensive Weapons Bill to assist parliamentarians on scrutiny of the bill’s provisions. Our work helped to secure the consultation on the guidance on KCPOs as well as the piloting of KCPOs, with a report on the pilot to be laid before Parliament prior to the further roll out of the orders.

We have consulted widely with our members to ensure that the breadth and depth of their expertise informs our submission to the consultation. Our full response can be found here

Our key comments on the draft guidance are as follows:

  • We strongly recommend that that Home Office publishes separate and distinct KCPO guidance for children.
  • Safeguarding of children and young people must be of paramount importance. There must be more clearly stated guidance around how local multi-agency safeguarding partnerships should inform the KCPO process, in order to protect children from harm.
  • As the organisations with the necessary expertise, the assessment and views of the local Youth Offending Service and children’s services must be considered at every stage of the process and clearly represented to the court.
  • Guidance should make clear that attempts to engage a young person in preventative and diversionary activities on a voluntary basis must be fully explored prior to an application for a KCPO being considered- opportunities for diversion should be continuously explored.
  • Further clarity is needed on the evidence base required for the imposition of an order, given it can be imposed on a balance of probabilities.
  • More clarification is needed for ‘relevant organisations and community groups’ – particularly given their concerns about the introduction of KCPOs and the roles that they might be expected to play in their implementation.

Responding to the draft guidance, Director of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, Pippa Goodfellow, said:

“Serious concerns remain about the destructive impact that KCPOs will have on vulnerable young people. Lessons from ASBOs have clearly not been learned; the same mistakes are being made that will lead to young people being criminalised at a disproportionate rate.

“Where are the voices of those who are most likely to be directly impacted by the orders?  Young people who are affected by violence need to have a say and be listened to when developing ‘solutions’ to issues that affect them.

“It is hard to see how these orders can be badged as preventative, when the guidance doesn’t make clear that attempts to engage a young person in preventative and diversionary activities on a voluntary basis must be fully explored prior to an application for a KCPO being considered.

Mark Day, Head of Policy and Communications at the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“Far from being the preventative interventions which the government promised, these punitive “knife-crime ASBOs” threaten to be a back door to custody for thousands of children and young people. How can sending a child as young as 12 to prison for breaching a civil order imposed on the balance of probabilities be considered an effective, fair or proportionate response to the complex problem of knife carrying?”

There are also major concerns from the organisations that might be expected to provide and oversee ‘positive requirements’:

Andy Peaden, Chair of the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers, said:

“The legislation and guidance appear to regard children as mini-adults, failing to acknowledge their very different developmental stage of life. As a result, it fails to regard potential child subjects as ‘children first and offenders second’.

“We feel that the government needs to invest much more around prevention and universal early-years interventions. This would more closely constitute a genuine public health approach, ensuring children of all ages are provided with the support they need to stay away from serious violence, as well as helping to eliminate the climate in which violence breeds.

Lisa Capper, Director of Education and Skills at Nacro, said:

“Nacro would like to see less reliance on the KCPO mechanism as a panacea for knife crime and more resourcing of preventative proactive programmes for young people at risk, commissioned locally and led by expert grass-roots organisations.

“Nacro provides further education for over 4,300 young people and adults who are at risk in some shape or form. Young people have told us that access to education in a safe place and learning to stay safe from others is a large part of the solution – more supervisory orders are not.”

For more information or interview requests, please contact:

Pippa Goodfellow on:pippa.goodfellow@scyj.org.uk

Notes:

  1. The Standing Committee for Youth Justice (SCYJ) is an alliance of over 60 non-profit organisations working together for a better youth justice system. More information about the SCYJ is available here. 
  2. The orders have not been subject to any kind of meaningful public consultation, up to this point. Key stakeholders, including the Youth Justice Board, the Children’s Commissioner, the prison service, magistrates, local government and children’s services were not given any kind of input on the development of KCPOs prior to their introduction to the Offensive Weapons Bill. KCPOs were also not included as part of the government’s serious violence strategy.
  3. In August 2019, the Home Office opened a consultation on guidance in relation to the operation of, and application for, new Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs) which have been introduced through the Offensive Weapons Act 2019. Details of the consultation on the draft guidance is available here.
  4. The full SCYJ response to the consultation is available here.
  5. An independent evaluation of ASBOs, commissioned by the Youth Justice Board, suggests several ways in which strategies to address problematic behaviour might be refined or further developed. A summary of the evaluation is available here.

SCYJ submission to Labour and Liberal Democrat criminal justice policy reviews

Both the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats have recently consulted on their criminal justice policy.

SCYJ responded to the consultations setting out our position and recommendations around priority areas of the youth justice system.

In particular, SCYJ would like to see:

  • The minimum age of criminal responsibility significantly increased
  • A commitment to maximise diversion and minimise contact with the criminal justice system, in lieu of welfare-based service provision
  • Investment in community-based, child-centred responses to children in trouble with the law
  • A significant reduction in numbers of children deprived of their liberty, and the closure of all penal custodial establishments
  • Criminal records and anonymity law reformed to promote reintegration
  • Child-centred courts that promote understanding and participation

Read our full response here.

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