Youth Justice Summit 2023

Exploring Alternatives to the Criminal Legal System for Children. 5th October 2023, King's College, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS.


Join us for the 5th edition of the YJLC Summit to explore alternatives to the criminal legal system for children.

Children in the criminal justice system have never been more in need of professionals fighting their corner and our mission is to arm and inspire attendees with the tools and knowledge they need to get better outcomes.

This year's summit will explore alternatives to the criminal legal system for children. Together we can start to create a more effective and compassionate landscape for children.

Summit 2023: Panels and Panellists

Kids, Drugs & Criminality


We criminalise young people who take and supply drugs; and it isn’t working. Prisons are full, thousands of children are exploited into drug dealing and young people die every year from taking unregulated drugs.

Cannabis has been legalised in many parts of the world, but here we are still seeing children heavily policed for it along with a YJS ASSET assessment that automatically assumes a substance misuse situation if a young person admits they take drugs. What if there was another way?

The panel speakers are:

  • MiAngel Cody, Lawyer & Founder, The Decarceration Collective, represents people in the USA who face excessively long, often racially discriminatory, prison sentences for drug offences. She will share progressive tips and ideas from her ground-breaking practice in the U.S.
  • Anne-Marie Cockburn, Founding Member, Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control & Storyteller with The Forgiveness Project. Anne-Marie’s only child, Martha, died at 15 after taking ecstasy. Anne-Marie sought dialogue, rather than retribution with the 17-year-old boy connected to the incident. Her journey emphasizes the power of understanding and dialogue in the face of adversity.
  • Stephen Cutter, Head of Legal Services, Release, will discuss the law, decriminalisation models and what we can learn from different approaches taken across the world.

This panel is chaired by YJLC Director, Katya Moran.

Schools and Police


The presence of police and policing in schools has increased exponentially in the last decade. Is this helping children, or is it leading to increased criminalisation?

Children excluded from school are at higher risk of exploitation. Safer School Officers (SSOs) are disproportionately present in schools with high numbers of Black, Brown and Racialised pupils, but the legal framework in which they operate is unclear. Child Q’s case illustrates what can go wrong when a policing approach rather than a child protection one is used in school.

The panel speakers are:

  • Tayyiba Bajwa, Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers, is a criminal barrister and the clinical supervising attorney at the International Human Rights Clinic at Berkley Law School. The Clinic are working with YJLC to better understand the use of strip and search on children in different jurisdictions. Tayyiba joins the summit to discuss the relevant legal framework.
  • Roxy Legane is the founder of Kids of Colour, a Manchester-based project for young people of colour to challenge every day and institutionalised racism. Having completed a Masters in Criminology, Roxy is now studying for a PhD at MMU exploring racialised young people’s experiences of police power in Greater Manchester. Roxy joins us to discuss police power, policing in education, police in schools and the case of the Manchester 10

  • Michaela Rafferty, Youth Worker, The Difference, is a youth worker and activist who has worked in solidarity with children denied their right to education through school exclusions. Michaela leads youth advisory work to influence organisations to prevent school exclusions, and will share ideas on how we can do more to help.
  • Johnathan Akindutire, Campaigner & Youth Advisory Board Member, The Difference. Johnathan was part of the School Exclusion Campaign at Just for Kids Law, he has now joined The Youth Advisory Board at The Difference. Johnathan uses his lived experiences of school exclusions to raise awareness of the systematic inequalities within mainstream education and to influence government policy on school suspensions and permanent exclusions. 
  • Saqib Deshmukh, Interim CEO, Alliance for Youth Justice, has over 17 years experience in Youth Justice Services and prior to joining the AYJ as CEO he was Director of Young People and Families at Hackney CVS. Saqib will be discussing the case of Child Q, and what happens next.

This panel is chaired by YJLC Director, Laura Cooper.

Non-Punitive Approaches


Taking a punitive approach to children in conflict with the law, rather than employing safeguarding and child-protection measures, results in lifelong damage to those children, and is often rooted in racism.

The Youth Justice Board and the Ministry of Justice have spent decades improving the numbers of children diverted out of the formal criminal justice system, but a postcode lottery means this is not applied equally. Restorative and transformative justice, and other innovations, have excellent outcomes. Can we develop further non-punitive measures that lead to long term benefits rather than deficits? 

The panel speakers are:

  • Jahnine Davis, Director, Listen Up, is one of the UK’s leading specialists in the safeguarding of Black children. She will discuss the particular harm caused by adultification bias and how to take a different approach.
  • Dr Sarah Beth Kaufman, PhD, Associate Professor, Trinity University, USA, is a sociologist and critical criminologist who worked as a mitigation specialist to secure reduced sentences for impoverished capital murder defendants. She will share an overview of her studies into effective non-punitive approaches and innovative programs.
  • Alan Webster, Deputy Director, Youth Justice policy, Ministry of Justice, is responsible for shaping and delivering the government’s policy and strategy in relation to the youth justice system.  Alan will shed light on current MoJ strategy and plans for the future.
  • Phil Bowen, Youth Justice Board Member and Director of the Centre for Justice Innovation, will discuss thoughts on whether it is possible to improve the existing operation of the youth court system and whether the youth court model itself is worthy of rethinking.

This panel is chaired by YJLC Director, Aika Stephenson.

Protection/Safeguarding v Criminalision/Investigation


What are our legal duties towards children in the criminal justice system and what would truly safeguarding them look like?  Can child protection be used proactively as a tool to oppose the criminal justice system?

Contextual safeguarding allows social workers and YJS staff to expand their child protection remit beyond the home and family and use it to protect children in their wider environment. However, when negligence has led to children being harmed legal action can be taken. What lessons can we learn from the cases when preventable harm has been inflicted on the children we were supposed to protect? 

The panel speakers are:

  • Dr Hannah King, Associate Professor at Durham University, explains how contextual safeguarding allows social workers and YJS staff to expand their child protection remit beyond the home and family and use it to protect children in their wider environment.
  • Chris Callender, partner at Simpson Millar, will discuss where negligence by the Local Authority which has damaged children has led to legal action being taken. And what Local Authority social workers and managers can do to ensure that they are doing everything to protect the children in their care, if necessary, using historic cases as tools to argue for greater protection in their area.
  • Maya Sikand KC, Doughty Street Chambers, represented Rianna, a teenage care-leaver, at the Inquest of baby Aisha who died during delivery in a prison cell at HMP Bronzefield. Rianna had gone into labour, pressed her buzzer 3 times and was ignored by staff. Rianna was leaving care and pregnant when she was incarcerated. Is there more that social workers and YJS can do to protect young vulnerable teenagers so that they are protected from these outcomes?
  • John Drew CBE  is a social justice campaigner and advisor, specialising in youth justice and safeguarding adolescents. In these roles he has led a series of independent reviews, including those into the murders of Child C in Waltham Forest and Hakim Sillah in Hillingdon. John is the chair of the Birmingham and Oxfordshire’s Youth Justice Partnership Management Boards and the independent safeguarding scrutineer for the secure estate in Medway, where the focus is on HMP YOI Cookham Wood and the Oasis Restore Secure School. John is also a Senior Associate at the Prison Reform Trust. From 2009 to 2013 John was the Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, and is most proud of overseeing the dramatic reversal of numbers of children in custody, a trend which has continued until recently. 

This panel is chaired by YJLC Director, Shauneen Lambe.

YJLC Summit 2021

The YJLC Summit 2021 took place on 25th March, with over 1,800 livestream viewers.

In this extraordinary year, the YJLC Summit was free to attend live. In lieu of ticket sales, replay videos are available by donation at

The fourth annual Youth Justice Legal Centre Summit was an interactive, live virtual event.

The day brought experts from various jurisdictions together with practitioners to learn about bias and discrimination and to share ideas on how to overcome it. Attendees heard from leading experts from across the globe about their ideas for tools that can be used to confront discrimination in order to represent children better.

The summit looked at five areas where children in the criminal justice system can experience discrimination. The themes of these were GirlsRaceClassKids (age), and FearYou can watch some of the highlights from each session here.

Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, we were able to invite all delegates to attend the Summit free of charge. In lieu of ticket sales, replay videos are available by donation at