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Taylor Review of Youth Justice System published

Review of the Youth Justice System in England and Wales, by Charlie Taylor (Ministry of Justice) published Dec 2016

The final report of the Charlie Taylor Review of the Youth Justice System, and the Government’s response have now been published. The report calls for improved fees structure for youth court work and mandatory training for lawyers.

Details
The Charlie Taylor review of the youth justice system, and the Government’s response have now been published. The review, commissioned by Michael Gove in September 2015, examined a number of areas in need of reform in the youth justice system, including children in court, secure schools and the role of central government.

The report highlights why children who break the law should be dealt differently to adults and that in order to truly protect the public, the youth justice system must succeed in changing the lives of the most troubled children.

The report focuses on the need of the state to adequately support these vulnerable children and recognise their multiple and complex needs, rather than disproportionately punishing them. The report talks about the need for a shift in the way society (including central and local government) thinks about youth justice “so that we see the child first and the offender second”.

It examines the reasons behind youth offending. Charlie Taylor’s findings highlight that many of the children in the youth justice system “come from the most dysfunctional and chaotic families where drug and alcohol misuse, physical and mental abuse and offending is common.” It also notes that often they are victims of crime themselves. The report also found that:

  • 40% of children in custody are from Black and Ethnic Minority (BAME) backgrounds, and a large number have been in care (38% in Young Offender Institutes, 52% in Secure Training Centres);
  • 24% of boys in YOIs report mental health problems; [paragraph 4]
  • Many of the children in the youth justice system have had little or no engagement in education; [paragraph 29]
  • Looked after children are five times more likely to be cautioned or convicted than children in the general population. [paragraph 76]

 

The report then goes on to make a number of recommendations for the UK and Welsh governments, inspectorates, local authorities and other bodies and services, including:

  • Establishing an Office of the Youth Justice Commissioner who is responsible for transforming the youth justice system, based within central government; [paragraph 168]
  • Wherever possible, minor crimes should be dealt with outside the formal youth justice system; [paragraph 9]
  • Children should not be held in police custody for longer than six hours; [paragraph 62]
  • Children should automatically receive free legal advice at the police station; [paragraph 69]
  • The College of Policing should introduce mandatory child-specific training for all custody sergeants; [paragraph 70]
  • The Ministry of Justice and the Home Office should develop a distinct approach to how childhood offending is treated by the criminal records system; [paragraph 85]
  • The Ministry of Justice should review the fee structure of cases heard in the Youth Court in order to raise their status and improve the quality of legal representation for children; [paragraph 104]
  • The Bar Standards Board and the Solicitors Regulation Authority should introduce mandatory training for all lawyers appearing in the Youth Court. [paragraph 104]

 

Read the full Review of the Youth Justice System in England and Wales, which includes a list of recommendations.

The government has also published its response to the review. The response states that it agrees that the youth justice system is in need of reform and sets out its intentions to take forward the recommendations.

Read the Government Response to Charlie Taylor’s Review of the Youth Justice System.

Commentary

The Youth Justice Legal Centre welcomes the publication of the Taylor Report. It is encouraging to see that the status of youth court work is recognised and that fee structure of youth court work needs to be reviewed and mandatory training introduced to improve the quality of youth justice advocacy.