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Care & Crime Together?

Merging youth and family courts

March 2021

Retired magistrate Chris Stanley and Trustee of the Michael Sieff Foundation, presents the case for addressing the issue of children who offend by combining the youth and family courts. Chris’ article was published in the February/March 2021 issue of Magistrate – the independent magazine of the Magistrates Association, a national charity and the independent voice of magistrates in England and Wales.

Read Care and crime together? article here

The Magistrates Association (MA) commented:

The MA is very grateful to the Sieff Foundation for writing this article: we hope it fosters healthy discussion about what can be done both short- and long-term to improve youth justice. The MA agrees that a more problem solving approach should be taken in the youth court, with a focus on the welfare of the child or young person (CYP) as well as supporting a reduction in reoffending. However, MA policy is that we do not support the specific long-term aim of merging youth and family jurisdictions, or dealing with criminal matters involving under-18s in the family court. We believe there is generally sufficient flexibility to allow youth courts to take a child-centred view, with youth offending teams being well placed to take a multi-agency, problem solving approach to address the needs of CYP. We do agree that more can always be done: specifically, we would like Paragraph 35 of Schedule 1 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 enacted to allow courts to review youth rehabilitation orders.

We also think it is important to consider likely challenges to introducing the specific proposal of merging jurisdictions, including the fact that very different legal frameworks are followed in each jurisdiction, with different underlying principles. We would also note that the current workload in the family court is already stretching capacity to its limits, with particular pressures on Cafcass/Cafcass Cymru.

In response to the Magistrates’ Association observations the Foundation replies:

The Foundation welcomed the request from the Magistrates’ Association to write this article and fully endorses most of the MA comment. However, we are disappointed that current MA policy does not support the specific long term aim of the Carlile report that “given that children who offend and are in the child protection system are a similar and overlapping population, our long-term aspiration is that their problems are responded to within the same jurisdiction”. With the news that some 1.3 million children under five in the U.K. are now living in poverty, according to new research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and baby bank charity Little Village, it is inevitable that in the future more children are likely to have contact with the Youth Court, given the very well demonstrated links between deprivation and offending. Such cases will require ever increasing Family Court information sharing, participation and powers if the causes are to be properly understood and appropriate remedies dispensed. The MA is a very influential organisation and we are disappointed that in developing policy it is not looking forward to challenges, opportunities for innovation and solutions. Our contention is that Magistrates should be trained in both disciplines so that they can move between them as necessary. After all, currently, YCs are below capacity, whereas as is rightly stated, Family Courts are over capacity.

If you want to know more please contact the Secretary at: richard@michaelsieff-foundation.org.uk

March 2021

Care & Crime Together?

Seminar on closer integration between the Family and Youth Courts

14 June 2018

Chaired by Lord Carlile of Berriew

The Michael Sieff Foundation organised a seminar at (and supported by) the Nuffield Foundation on 14 June 2018 to discuss the merits of and barriers to closer integration and collaboration between these two jurisdictions dealing with cases involving under 18s.

A list of Seminar Attendees can be downloaded here.

Two presentations were given:

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division

Sir James referred to his two recent lectures:

  1. Children Across the Justice Systems
    The 2017 Parmoor Lecture to the Howard League for Penal Reform
    Given by Sir James Munby President of the Family Division
    30 October 2017
    Download the transcript of the full lecture from the Howard League’s website.
  2. What is Family Law? – Securing Social Justice for Children and Young People
    A lecture by Sir James Munby
    President of the Family Division of the High Court and Head of Family Justice for England and Wales
    At the University of Liverpool, 30 May 2018
    (Eleanor Rathbone Social Justice Public Lecture Series 2017-18)
    Download the transcript of the full lecture transcript from the Courts & Tribunals Judiciary website.

The Magistrates Association, Linda Logan, Chairman Youth Court Committee and Rupert Holderness, Chairman Family Court Committee

Slides from the presentation can be downloaded here (Powerpoint zipped file).

Discussion of Merits and Barriers

A plenary discussion followed the presentations, concluding with a summary of key points:

  • Recognition of current limitations to legislative change
  • Improvements can be achieved utilising existing legislation:
    • Parenting Orders (Youth Courts)
    • Section 9, Children & Young Persons Act 1969 – permits a criminal court to request that a local authority makes investigations and provides information with regard to a child’s welfare and the authority has a duty to comply
    • Paragraph 35, Schedule 1 of the Criminal Justice & Immigration Act 2008 (not enacted) would enable courts to review youth rehabilitation orders and check on progress
  • Improved awareness, knowledge and understanding of the two jurisdictions across both jurisdictions would be welcomed
  • Improved communication and information sharing between agencies (CAFCASS, children’s services, YJB and YOTs) would be beneficial for agencies and the judiciary
  • Opportunities for encouraging inter-disciplinary training should be explored
  • Digitisation of court systems offered a gateway to better inter-agency information sharing
  • Currently there is no data on young people subject to orders in both jurisdictions; these cross-over cases need to be identified
  • A pilot programme of better information-sharing, problem-solving and awareness could be a good starting point, as per the development of the Family Drug and Alcohol Court
  • Research and evidence-based reports should be better used to inform training and practice
  • The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory will be a valuable source of shared research

The Crossover Chart and its use in New Zealand Courts

Crossover Chart Used in the New Zealand Youth Legal System

A PDF file of the Crossover Chart can be downloaded here.

The explanation of the use of the Crossover Chart can be downloaded here.

If you want to know more please contact the Secretary at: richard@michaelsieff-foundation.org.uk

June 2018