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Laming Review: half of children in custody have been in care

The Prison Reform Trust’s independent review chaired by Lord Laming has found that children in care are six times more likely than other young people to be cautioned or convicted of a crime.1

Details

The Laming Review calls for a coherent programme of reform to help improve the life chances of looked after children and prevent future crime.

Unpublished data made available to the review by the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales reveals that 44% of looked after children in custody are from an ethnic minority background – this is more than one-and-a-half times the proportion in the general population and the looked after population. Young people with experience of care and the criminal justice system told the review that separation from their birth family understandably hurts and the care system must do more to help them come to terms with this. They often feel isolated and unsupported at critical moments, not least if they have to appear in court or spend time in custody.

Recommendations include:
  • Review the Home Office Counting Rules and develop a new outcome, allowing police forces to record low-level, crime-related behaviour by children so that it does not create a criminal record and cannot be disclosed by an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check.2
  • The police should not interview a child in custody, charge a child with an offence or administer an out of court disposal, without knowing whether that child is looked after.
  • Support looked after children to be diverted from the criminal justice system and custody wherever possible, ensuring the matter is dealt with without court proceedings unless there is no alternative.

 

Commentary

Practitioners representing looked after children should be aware of the ways in which looked after children are unnecessary criminalised. All lawyers should be aware if the child they are representing is looked after and ensure they are only prosecuted when there is no alternative.

  1. Department for Education (2015) Statistical First Release SFR 34/2015  (back)
  2. This was also a recommendation of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children report on children and the police report.  (back)