Overlooked and unsupported: young women and the CJS

Young Women Surviving the Criminal Justice System

This report highlights the interactions between women and the criminal justice system (CJS), finding that they are often overlooked and unsupported and that policy changes are required.


The CJS, as it stands, supports, and fuels the cycle of abuse that young, disadvantaged women find themselves in. Care experienced women are overrepresented and there is clear racial disparity, with Black and mixed-race women being more than twice as likely to be arrested than white women. This report collates 2 years of research which demonstrates that up to 90% of young women in the CJS have experienced abuse from family or those they trusted.  Additionally, 63% of young girls aged 16-24 serving community sentences had experiences of rape or domestic abuse. This is common throughout the CJS and has severe consequences as the system is not set up to support these girls.

Often the offences young women enter the CJS as a result of, stem from complex trauma and disadvantage. The young women that informed this report stated they often felt unsupported and that the systems and support in place were not designed to suit them or their needs.

The report found that gender-sensitive support would help achieve better results for young women.  This report goes on to recommend changes in policy, practice and funding that would encourage and empower these young women by prioritising investment in them at all stages of the CJS. It suggests that policy should recognise young women as a separate category and involve them in all levels of decision making. It also recommends that practitioners should be supported in identifying and responding to the needs of girls in the CJS, especially for minority groups and care leavers in order to avoid re-traumatisation.

The report provides clear recommendations in each area that can be implemented to support the desired change and empower young women to use their voices, and their lived experiences to push forward and break out of the cycle of abuse they face and get their lives back on track.


In youth justice work girls are often overlooked and the systems in place do not support their specific needs.

There is a clear need for policy that centres on young women and encourages gender-sensitive, holistic support which will go some way to reducing the harm caused to these young women. However, practitioners also need to alter their approach to young women.  It is clear that legal services in their current form can have a detrimental effect on females with lived experience of abuse and often result in their re-traumatisation.  Practitioners can improve this situation by using this report to inform their own methods and focus on providing a trauma-informed and gender-sensitive approach when representing girls and young women. 


Written by Aisha Rahal, Trainee Solicitor, Just For Kids Law