The Michael Sieff Foundation and Nuffield Foundation facilitated a Roundtable event to discuss where Parliament, Government and the Judiciary are planning to go or should be going next on youth justice, particularly in relation to the youth court. The report following the Roundtable has now been published.
Some key points in the report are as follows:
- There is a need to identify children’s vulnerabilities and to establish clear, effective communication with them.
- The quality of advocacy within the Youth Justice system has to be improved.
- Youth court cases are generally taking longer to get to court.
- Problem solving requires different data collection and analysis than is currently the norm.
- Guidelines about reducing the criminalisation of children exist for the police but it is unclear if they have been properly implemented.
- There is a need to understand better what was already happening in the youth justice system and then to take action to improve.
- While there are important reforms that require significant system change and possibly legislation, there was much positive that could readily be done though adopting a practical, problem-solving approach. Encouraging a cultural shift in the system, reflected in and led by changed language (eg referring to children, rather than young offenders), was an important part of all this.
The report covers a range of important topics which are of real significance for those using the youth court. The Roundtable event was concluded by attendees agreeing that they ‘did not want to sit on their hands and wait for Government to act. Those things which did not require primary legislation should be implemented within twelve months. Civil servants should be urged to press for these changes. An early slot in the next Parliament should be obtained for those changes which required legislation. Local leaders could and should act’.