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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SCYJ call to end the use of pain-inducing techniques in the children’s secure estate

The SCYJ has held longstanding opposition, as a point of principle, to the deliberate infliction of pain on children as part of any system of restraint.

We have submitted a statement to Charlie Taylor’s independent review of pain-inducing restraint, urging the Ministry of Justice and the Youth Custody Service to prohibit the use of pain-inducing techniques on children and across child custody as a whole. We join a wide range of bodies and organisations that have called for a ban.

The deliberate infliction of pain on children breaches the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The deliberate use of pain is damaging to children and causes unnecessary harm. It is also a fundamentally flawed model of how to resolve conflict and develop trusted relationships between staff and children.

Read our full statement here.

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SCYJ responds to Home Office consultation on new legal duty to support a multi-agency approach to preventing and tackling serious violence

SCYJ has responded to the Home Office consultation on a new legal duty to support a multi-agency approach to preventing and tackling serious violence.

We support a public health approach to tackling serious violence which seeks to address its root causes and welcome the government’s acknowledgement of the need to shift focus from a punitive response towards a multi-agency, more preventative approach. We welcome the intention to encourage organisations to share information, data and intelligence, and work in concert rather than isolation to identify children at risk as early as possible.

However, we do not believe that the proposals contained in this document amount to a public health approach. We are concerned there would be a number of unintended consequences for both children and the agencies involved if a statutory ‘public health duty’ is created, without achieving the desired result of reducing the number of children harmed by serious violence. SCYJ’s key objections to the proposal to create a legal duty are:

  • A vision for tackling serious violence which is limited to the scope of the Serious Violence Strategy does not represent a holistic approach to protecting children from harm, which can consider the full range of partners and interventions needed, as well as the structural, political and economic factors that contribute. A broader strategy is needed which equips the safeguarding system, statutory and voluntary services to protect children from harm outside the home, with resources and guidance to do so. This should embed a response that takes account of the context in which children are at risk and is trauma-informed. A duty for serious violence, which presents these issues as distinct from wider safeguarding duties, could lead to a more punitive approach to these children which evidence suggests is inadequate to reduce violence.
  • Implementation of a new duty without additional resources or definitive guidance is wholly inappropriate for services already tasked with rising demand, crisis management options, and low retention of staff.
  • The potential consequences of a new duty in this context have not been fully considered, both for the organisations involved and children affected, including how the duty will fit within other recent policy such as Knife Crime Prevention Orders; and the impact on racial disparity.

SCYJ’s preferred option would be for the government to support voluntary approaches to multi-agency working, which leaves room for flexibility and adaptability, to ensure resources are directed most efficiently, reflective of and responsive to local needs.

Read our full response here.

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