SCYJ Response to the Sentencing White Paper Reducing the number of children remanded to custody

The Government’s sentencing white paper sets out proposals for reform of the legislation governing remand to custody for children. SCYJ supports the decision to revisit the threshold for the remand of children into custody, particularly given the Government’s stated aim that remand to custody should be used only as a last resort for children. Developed with a group of experts from the SCYJ membership and specialist youth legal practitioners, we have submitted a response to the MoJ outlining our position on remand and proposals for reducing remand to Youth Detention Accommodation (YDA) for children.

Our key points and recommendations include:

  • For the use of YDA remands for children to be a genuine last resort the core principle underpinning court decisions must be whether it is necessary for public protection. A primary consideration for courts in all decisions for children must also be the child’s welfare.
  • While we welcome proposals to reform the Sentencing and History Conditions in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, we believe the Government’s stated aim of reducing custodial remand could be far better achieved by, alongside the current proposals for reform, focussing primarily on the Necessity Condition, and the Offence Condition.
  • A child should not be remanded to custody unless the court is satisfied that there is a significant risk of serious harm to the public, and that there is no mechanism for dealing with that risk with a remand to Local Authority Accommodation.
  • The range of offences for which a remand to YDA could be available to the courts should be restricted to serious offences specified by current legislation to be “dangerous” and/or “grave”.
  • The ‘History Conditions’ which consider a child’s ‘recent’ behaviour should be removed, the issues covered by these conditions could instead be considerations for the court regarding whether the Necessity Condition is met. If the Conditions are not removed, ‘recent’ should be restricted to within the last six weeks.
  • We welcome the Government proposal that the court should justify why they believe a custodial sentence is likely. The court should also be required to set out overall why they determined a custodial remand is necessary; why they believe the child presents a significant risk of serious harm to others, and why they believe no option other than a custodial remand is suitable to manage that risk.
  • The conditions for remand to YDA should explicitly set out the various duties on both courts and local authorities to protect children and promote their welfare.

Read the full response here.