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Youth Justice Summit 2019

The Youth Justice Legal Centre’s annual Youth Justice Summit took place on 17 May 2019.  The Summit’s theme was Children and the Criminal Courts and we were delighted to bring together 250 youth justice practitioners including some of the country’s leading experts on children and the criminal law.

YJLC are proud to be building a community of youth justice lawyers and professionals to ensure that children in the criminal justice system have legal representatives and are supported by professionals who are equipped with the specialist knowledge and skills necessary to do the best job possible for their young and vulnerable clients.

We are hugely grateful to our hosts The Dickson Poon School of Law King’s College London and our sponsors

  • The Inns of Court College of Advocacy (lunch)
  • Mishcon De Reya
  • Powell Spencer and Partners
  • Doughty Street Chambers
  • 1 Pump Court
  • Allen and Overy
  • BSB Solicitors
  • GT Stewart
  • Kingsley Napley
  • Hodge Jones and Allen
  • Garden Court Chambers
  • The Criminal Bar Association
  • The Bar Council
  • The Legal Education Foundation

The details

The Youth Justice Summit 2019 had a impressive keynote speakers included Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore talking about child & adolescent brain development, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen FBA FBPsS discussing representing defendants with autism and Professor David Ormerod QC thinking about children in criminal law reform.

Just for Kids Law’s chief executive Enver Soloman welcomed delegates and talked about the holistic work of the charity to support and promote the rights of vulnerable children. Professor Elaine Player welcomed the collaboration between Just for Kids Law and King’s College London in bringing together academics with practitioners to improve the quality of legal representation of children.

Panel discussions:

  • Children, neurodevelopmental issues and the criminal courts
    Shauneen Lambe (chair), Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Brenda Campbell QC, Maya Sikand and Professor Simon Baron-Cohen
  • Child Terrorist – An Oxymoron? How the criminal courts treat child victims of trafficking and exploitation
    Joanne Cecil (chair), Hossein Zahir QC, Michelle Brewer and Christine Beddoe 
  • Ensuring children effectively participate in criminal cases
    Lynda Gibbs (chair), HHJ Dafna Spiro, DJMC Naomi Redhouse and Garry Green

Delegates were also able to attend expert-led workshops to attend:

  • No child in cells – Reducing custodial remand of children
  • Turning 18 – the relevance of becoming an “adult” in the criminal justice system 
  • Psychologist, psychiatrist, intermediary – instructing the right expert
  • How to prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of children: Diversion and the decision to prosecute 
  • Criminal records – what next after the Supreme Court judgment?

The Summit 2019 was an overwhelmingly successful event.

Kate Aubrey-Johnson, Director YJLC says: ‘We organise the Youth Justice Summit to bring together a community of youth justice specialists. Our ambition is for children in the criminal justice system to have their rights and special protections fully respected. We believe, key to bringing about this culture change is for criminal lawyers who represent children to be able to become recognised as specialist youth practitioners. All other professionals working with children – doctors, teachers, social workers – have specialist training. They have colleagues with whom to share knowledge – a club to belong to. This makes them better at their jobs. We could, together, become a source of inspiration. A leading example of how children in the criminal courts should be represented.’

Testimonials say:

DJMC Naomi Redhouse said “Events like this are so important. When you practice in the youth court you don’t even see other lawyers – so it’s great to have an opportunity like this to meet and share ideas.” 

Lynda Gibbs, Programme Director at ICCA said “Today is like being in room with an army of caped crusaders dedicated to making a difference for children and young people embroiled in the criminal justice system.”


YJLC Youth Justice Champion Awards 2019

The Summit saw the presentation of the third YJLC Youth Justice Champion Awards.

Greg Stewart – Outstanding Achievement Award

Greg has been at the forefront of advocating for greater recognition of youth justice. He is an instinctive bridgebuilder. For many years, he was the youth justice practitioner representative on the Law Society Criminal Law Committee, where he played a major role in bringing these issues to the attention of the mainstream of the profession. Given the financial pressure criminal lawyers were, and are, under, and the massive distraction of LASPO, that was no mean feat. He has also worked hard to bring different professional bodies together over the need to raise standards. He gave evidence to the ‘Carlile Inquiry’ a Parliamentary Inquiry into the Youth Justice System and his views were widely quoted in the final report, and he played a vital role in the most recent revision of the sentencing code for children and young people. He regularly provides continuing education in the area of youth justice for various providers including the College of Law; LexisNexis and WestLaw. He has been involved in many reported cases in the higher courts challenging aspects of youth court practice, in particular, the case of R v A (Lewisham Youth Court) [2011] EWHC 1193 (Admin) clarified the duty to remand children to local authority accommodation still applies in cases where child defendants are charged with murder.

Mel Stooks – Outstanding Achievement Award

Mel has devoted almost her entire legal career to trying to protecting the rights of children and young people. At an early stage in her career, she recognised the need for court procedures and sentencing to reflect the different needs of young defendants. She has made a name for herself in youth courts around London standing up for the rights of child defendants and now heads up the Youth Department at GT Stewart.

Mel has particular expertise representing vulnerable children and is regularly called upon to provide her expertise to a wide range of organisations. She has been instrumental in achieving recognition that children must be represented by lawyers with particular knowledge and expertise and she was one of the experts who advised on and contributed to the Advocacy and the Vulnerable training programme.

She does all this and even finds the time to run legal advice clinics at local youth clubs educating young people about their rights. Thanks to her dedication and expertise, there are many, many children who have been able to put troubled times behind them.


YJLC look forward to seeing you next year at the Youth Justice Summit 2020.