UK: Children in the criminal justice system: parliamentary committee calls for changes


"The House of Commons Justice Committee has recommended that children who enter the criminal justice system should receive a much wider range of treatments because of the complexity of their needs and the seriousness of the crimes they commit."

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Full report: Children and Young People in Custody (Part 1): Entry into the youth justice system (pdf)

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"The Committee welcomed a dramatic, long term reduction in the raw numbers of children being sentenced for crimes in the youth courts of England and Wales. In this jurisdiction ‘children’ are defined as being between the ages of 10 and 17. In 2009, the number of those receiving a caution or a sentence (both of which can mean a child has ‘a record’, with implications for later life) was around 130,000. By 2019 this had fallen to 21,700 – a drop of 83%. The number of those sentenced to a custodial period in 2009 was 2625; by March 2020 it had dropped to 737.

This reduction is in part due to the role of measures that divert children from courts, which are known as ‘diversion schemes’. These have reduced the number of children being formally processed through the criminal justice system. These ‘community resolutions’, in the professional parlance, or ‘out of court disposals’, can include referral to social or psychiatric services as well as treatments for substance abuse, personality disorders or learning difficulties. The Committee noted that most experts in the field thought out of court disposals contribute to better outcomes for children...

The report also called on the government to explain why more than half of the children currently detained by the state are from ethnic minority backgrounds when this group makes up only 18 percent of the overall population of children."

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