SCYJ submission to the AGO call for evidence on social media and the administration of justice

SCYJ has made a submission to the Attorney General’s Office’s (AGO) call for evidence on breaches of reporting restrictions on social media. We are aware of instances of reporting restrictions being breached on social media and in internet searches.

SCYJ believes the law as it stands is clear and enforceable but is undermined by: a) a statutory loophole allowing children to be identified pre-charge; b) the absence of a clear route for bringing breaches to the attention of social media providers; and c) a failure of social media providers (and others) effectively to remove illegal material where this is brought to their attention.

Breaches of reporting restrictions on social media could be reduced and tackled if: a) internet companies made reporting breaches simpler and clearer; b) internet companies took swift and effective action to prevent breaches; c) the AGO, police and Crown Prosecution Service took action against offenders; d) the law was changed to prevent children being named pre-charge; and e) a public education campaign was launched to ensure people are aware of the law on reporting restrictions.

You can read our submission here.

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SCYJ submission to Home Office consultation on Offensive and dangerous weapons: new legislation

SCYJ has made a submission to the Home Office consultation on new weapons legislation, which proposes a number of new laws around knives and corrosive substances. We set out our views on these proposals as they affect children.

In principle we do not object to proposals B and C, which extend existing offences around possessing certain weapons in private and possessing offensive weapons in education institutions other than schools. However, we continue to oppose mandatory custodial sentences for children and would caution that criminal justice measures cannot prevent knife crime.

Proposal D introduces a more complicated test for the offence of threatening with a knife or offensive weapon, and greatly lowers the threshold for conviction. Given the severe penalty associated with a conviction (custody) SCYJ does not believe the change is justified.

Proposal G makes it an offence to possess a corrosive substance in a public place. SCYJ understands the serious concern around acid attacks, but believes the proposed legislation is unnecessary. If it is to be introduced, it needs significant amendments to satisfy the requirements of legal certainty and avoid unjust and unintended prosecutions.

You can read our submission here.

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Growing Up, Moving On: Our work to reform the law on childhood criminal records

SCYJ is working to reform the childhood criminal records system in England and Wales, to allow children who have been in trouble with the law to grow up, and move on with their lives. We’ve published two reports on our campaign, which are available below.

The childhood criminal records system in England and Wales anchors children to their past and prevents them moving on from their mistakes. There’s evidence to show that the system acts as a barrier to employment, education and housing. These are important factors in preventing reoffending, so by blocking access to them, the criminal records system works against rehabilitation and thus the aims of the youth justice system. Worryingly, the system also perpetuates inequalities in the justice system, for instance among children in care and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic children.

Research by SCYJ (see below) shows that the system in England and Wales is far more punitive than those in comparable jurisdictions; children in England and Wales are more likely to receive a criminal record, and the effect of that record is more profound and lasts longer than in other jurisdictions.

SCYJ wants to see the system reformed so that the impact of childhood criminal records is much reduced, but the public remain protected. The details of our recommendations for reform are set out in our campaign report, Growing Up, Moving On (see below), but in short we want to see:

  • Rehabilitation periods significantly reduced;
  • A presumption against disclosing police intelligence on children;
  • The filtering system expanded (including getting rid of the “two offences rule” and the list of “exempt offences”) and the time frames applied reduced;
  • Provision for wiping (or deleting) childhood offences from police computers if conditions are met, introduced in the future.

Reports

Growing Up, Moving On: A report on the childhood criminal records system in England and Wales

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The International Treatment of Childhood Criminal Records – a comparison of 16 jurisdictions 

FULL REPORT: The International Treatment of Childhood Criminal Records – a comparison of 16 jurisdictions.