Supporting Young People to Challenge Guilty Pleas

26 Jun 2024 13:00 to 14:00

Young people sometimes plead guilty for the wrong reasons. Misunderstanding, fear of reprisals, protecting friends and poor legal advice can all be the cause. 

  • When is answering no comment in the police station the right thing? 
  • How can practitioners identify when a young person should challenge their own guilty plea and how can they support them through the process? 

Join us to hear leading experts Cathy Dilks and Liz Dow from the Criminal Cases Review Commission, barrister Jennifer Twite and solicitor Aika Stephenson explain the legal framework for challenging guilty pleas and the practical steps which need to be taken.

Cathy Dilks is Head of Applicant Engagement at the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). Cathy has been working for the Commission for 24 years. She is responsible for making sure vulnerable groups of people, who have gone through the Criminal Justice System, are aware of the CCRC’s role and remit and she heads the Commission’s various outreach campaigns. Cathy has particular expertise in reaching out to young people as a vulnerable group and has recently designed new accessible literature for children in prison, as well as designed the CCRC’s animations and videos for young people with convictions. 

Liz Dow is a qualified barrister and has been a Case Review Manager at the CCRC for two and a half years. Case Review Managers are responsible for investigating suspected miscarriages of justice and drafting recommendations about whether to a refer a case for a fresh appeal. Liz is also the CCRC’s ‘Youth Justice Champion’, working to ensure that the CCRC’s casework processes take account of the specific needs of young applicants and that casework staff are alive to youth justice issues that might give rise to referrals. 

Jennifer Twite is a public law barrister at Garden Court Chambers where she specialises in youth justice and children’s rights. She started her career as a criminal barrister, specialising in representing children and vulnerable adults, she co-authored Youth Justice Law and Practice (LAG, 2019), and co-writes the bi-annual Youth Justice legal update for Legal Action Group magazine. Jennifer also now sits in the Magistrates’ Court as a Deputy District Judge. She was Head of Strategic Litigation at Just for Kids Law for seven years, where she took landmark legal challenges involving the disclosure of children’s criminal records, the use of intermediaries for children and the anonymity of child defendants.

Aika Stephenson, is the Co-Founder & Legal Director,  Just for Kids Law. She represents young people at every stage of the criminal legal system, from the police station to the Supreme Court. She is driven by a determination to bring about systemic change that benefits all children and young people caught up in the system. Aika offers practical insights into how to represent children differently, and therefore get them the best possible outcomes and is the author of In Their Defence.