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.

SCYJ response 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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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.

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