SCYJ submission to PAC inquiry into Courts and Tribunals reform

SCYJ has submitted written evidence to the Public Accounts Committee Transforming Courts and Tribunals inquiry. The inquiry aims to address the findings of a recent National Audit Office report that found the scale of proposed changes to HMCTS present a challenge, and HMCTS has so far made less progress than it original planned, with costs increasing whilst benefits have decreased.

SCYJ has concerns that there has been a general lack of consideration of the distinct needs of children in the HMCTS Reform Programme, and the impact reforms may have on children’s rights and justice outcomes. This is likely to impact on projected costs and benefits.

SCYJ believes the reforms are unlikely to produce significant cost savings, and will reduce the service available to vulnerable users, threatening access to justice.

Our response focuses on the HMCTS Reform Programme in the criminal courts, especially on the use of video links and online pleas with child defendants (under the age of 18).

You can read our full submission here, and published by the Public Accounts Committee here.

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SCYJ submission to JCHR youth detention inquiry

SCYJ has submitted written evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into the use of solitary confinement and constraint in the children’s custodial estate.

SCYJ’s submission outlines how:

  1. Solitary confinement and restraint always risk breaching a child’s human rights.
  2. The use of solitary confinement and restraint is on the rise.
  3. This shows a failure to adopt a child-focused approach to custody. We press for a wholesale reform of the custody system for children.

You can read our submission here.

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SCYJ submission to Fit for the Future courts consultation

SCYJ responded to the HM Courts and Tribunals Service consultation “Fit for the future: transforming the court and tribunal estate”.

SCYJ has concerns about the general lack of consideration of the distinct needs of children in the future estates strategy, and has grave concerns over the assumption within the strategy that digital services will replace most of the need for physical court appearances, without public consultation or evaluation of digital reforms.

Two recent reviews of the youth justice system (by Lord Carlile of Berriew and Charlie Taylor) have identified serious problems with the court system as it relates to child defendants, particularly around their difficulties with understanding and participating in proceedings. The proposals in the consultation do nothing to address the serious concerns identified, and in fact may make many of the problems significantly worse. This risks undermining children’s right to a fair trial.

SCYJ recommends that the reform programme is put on hold until sufficient assessment and public consultation has occurred on the impact of the proposals on child defendants’ access to justice.

You can read our submission here.

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