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Youth Justice: Action Plan 2017 onwards

Young Defendants’ Working Group – Action Plan 2017

It has always been a principle adopted by the Michael Sieff Foundation that the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales, currently ten years, is too low. A letter cosigned by 32 national organisations was published in The Times in 2010 urging the age of criminal responsibility be raised substantially from 10 years old in line with most other countries. (See the text see: the correspondence page.) Regrettably political and media opposition persists. We have therefore focused on other more achievable objectives.

In 2012 the Foundation established a new Action Plan for the Young Defendants’ Working Group, looking to achieve better recognition of the statutory requirements to consider the welfare of young defendants and reduce offending; a reduction in the number of young people in custody; and better support, information and services available to young defendants, their families and carers.

A seminar in January 2013 led to the setting up of a Parliamentarians’ Inquiry in November 2013 chaired by Lord Carlile, which the Foundation co-sponsored with the National Children’s Bureau. The report into the operation and effectiveness of the youth justice system was published in June 2014 and paved the way for changes consistent with the Action Plan. The Foundation has continuously promoted implementation of the recommendations of the Carlile report. Considerable progress has been made. The Foundation has persisted in seeking extension of the powers of the Youth Court. More serious crimes are now often tried in that venue, which is patently more appropriate than the Crown Court. Further consideration is still required and a seminar is planned for February 2018.
Criminal records imposed during childhood all too easily blight the future life of a child. The Foundation has supported the Standing Committee on Youth Justice on their initiative to bring about radical change in this area.

The inadequacy of legal representation of young people has been well evidenced and we have supported the Bar Standards Board and the Inns of Court College of Advocacy on their work to achieve improved advocacy competence.

Another of the recommendations which the Foundation has sought to promote is that of problem solving courts. The Centre for Justice Innovation is now being funded by the Nuffield Foundation to research feasibility projects. We continue to support this initiative. To achieve real success a full national project will require senior judicial approval. The wheels grind slowly.

Following the publication of the Carlile Inquiry Report the Ministry of Justice established a Review conducted by Charlie Taylor which reported in 2016. Its Terms of Reference included consideration of the nature and characteristics of offending by young people aged 10-17 and the arrangements in place to prevent it; and how effectively the youth justice system and its partners operate in responding to offending by children and young people, preventing further offending, protecting the public and repairing harm to victims and communities, and rehabilitating young offenders. Subsequently he has been appointed as Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board, so we remain positive that his proposals, many of which followed the principles proposed by the Carlile Inquiry Report, will ultimately be implemented.

For our previous Action Plan from 2012 to 2017 see the page: Young Defendants’ Working Group – Action Plan 2012