Ensuring custody is a last resort for children – new SCYJ report

SCYJ is proud to publish a new report, Ensuring custody is the last resort for children in England and Walesdeveloped with an expert group of SCYJ members:

  • The principle that custody should only ever be used as a last resort for children is enshrined in domestic law and international human rights conventions, but is not currently applied as such.
  • As the number of children in custody has declined over the past decade, the overrepresentation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) children has worsened, such that 2019 saw more BAME children in custody than white children for the first time.
  • This paper sets out proposals for new legislation to ensure that custody for children is only ever used as a genuine last resort.
  • Distinct and tightened legal restrictions would apply more equitably to all children and minimise the influence of a range of biases, that can see disproportionately negative outcomes for BAME children and those in local authority care.
  • The suggested legislative criteria would ensure that custody is only available for the most serious crimes, where the child poses a serious and continuing risk to the public, and where there is genuinely no way of managing that risk in the community.

These proposals would be a vital tool in stemming the flow of children who are sentenced and remanded to custody. The report has been submitted to the Justice Select Committee as part of its inquiries into youth justice.

Read the report here.

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SCYJ response 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 Submission to Consultation on Knife Crime Prevention Orders 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) 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 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.

Our full response can be found here