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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SCYJ response to Youth Justice Board consultation on National Standards for children in the youth justice system

SCYJ responded to the Youth Justice Board (YJB) consultation on proposed new National Standards for children in contact with the law. We welcome the YJB’s intentions in revising the National Standards, but have concerns that the proposed Standards will not encourage the provision of quality services. We urge the YJB to rethink and redevelop the new standards. Failing that, we urge the YJB to update the Standards according to our suggestions laid out in our response, and to pilot them and subject them to a thorough process evaluation before roll-out.

In summary:

  • We welcome the child first Principles laid out, but do not feel they are fully reflected within the individual Standards.
  • We welcome the YJB’s intention to emphasise outcomes rather than describe processes, but do not feel that the new Standards have, as yet, achieved this goal. We also question whether the youth justice system is established enough that process-driven requirements are unnecessary, when key elements continue to be beset by failure.
  • The vague, subjective nature of the Standards will cause difficulties in monitoring. Updating the Key Elements of Effective Practice (KEEPs) would help remedy this, although this would still not address the core issue of difficulty in monitoring or holding services to account under the new standards. It also seems that monitoring will become more opaque, and the YJB’s process for intervention more unaccountable.
  • It is unclear what the Guidance sections will contain, making it impossible to comment fully on the adequacy of the current draft.
  • The out-of-court Standards focus on desistance from crime, rather than diversion into more suitable child-focused systems, and the promotion of positive behaviours.
  • There is a concerning absence of children’s rights in the ‘at court’ Standards, and we require clarification on certain subjects, including suggestions on victims’ statements.
  • We are pleased to see a move away from time requirements and the prescription of enforcement and intervention reviews in the ‘in the community’ Standards, but feel that the standards could be strengthened further.
  • The Secure Settings Standards include some welcome recognitions, but we are concerned that the lack of clearly defined processes removes important safeguards for children, potentially making secure settings less safe and less accountable.
  • We are pleased to see the introduction of a distinct Standard on transition and resettlement, but believe more requirements should be described.
  • The YJB should produce a child-specific version of the standards.

Read our full response here.

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SCYJ response to Home Affairs Committee serious violence inquiry

The Home Affairs Select Committee has published SCYJ’s response to their serious violence inquiry, submitted in August 2018.

SCYJ welcomes the government’s commitment to tackling serious violence, and the strategy’s acknowledgment of the importance of early intervention and a whole-system approach. However, we have concerns that the proposals do not go far enough, and that the criminal justice measures risk increasing the number of children (under 18-years-old) in custody.

SCYJ is calling on the government to gather evidence on effective interventions and adopt a public health approach that sees resources directed towards preventative services that will have a long-term impact on violent crime.

Read our full response here.

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