Youth Justice

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Post  MH on Thu 4 Dec 2008 - 19:04

I am reposting some things I wrote in May and June this year on the WalesOnline forum under the title:

Youth Justice - here's another reason to devolve it to Wales

MH, 21 May 2008 5:42 pm, wrote:A report from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS) at King’s College London, has shown that most youth justice targets in "England and Wales" have been missed.

Over the past few years there has been some divergent opinion within the Youth Justice Board, which led to the chair, Prof Rod Morgan, resigning. He explained his position in some detail in an article last year:

To meet crime targets, the police are picking low-hanging fruit - the lowest of which comprises juvenile group behaviour in schools, residential homes and public spaces, offences that could be dealt with informally, more effectively, speedily and cheaply, and in former times were. There has been a 26% increase in the number of children and young persons criminalised in the past three years. This at a time when the British Crime Survey and police statistics indicate that most crimes, including those committed by juveniles, have been falling.

Criminalising children and young people who could be made to face up to the consequences of their behaviour by other means is criminogenic. Cluttering up courts with minor offenders deflects the system from devoting more attention to persistent, serious offenders whose risk of reoffending is high. We should be spending more on early preventive work with children at risk and their parents. In recent years, the Youth Justice Board has had no option but to spend seven times as much on custody as on early prevention schemes, the cost benefits of which are proven.

During my three years as chair of the YJB I made it clear, mostly in private but from time to time in public, that I was not happy with the direction of youth justice policy. It is the duty of the YJB independently to advise ministers. If it fails to do so, there is little point in its existence.
As you see, the UK government, responding to polictical pressure, started to shift the focus more on the easy targets to improve statistics at the expense of dealing with the real issue.


As many of you will know, part of the One Wales Agreement was a commitment towards devolving the Youth and Criminal Justice system to Wales. This report can only add to the compelling case to do so. I believe that we in Wales ... not least because we are not so much influenced by the media perceptions of middle England ... will be much more able to stick to what matters. Our priorities in Wales are and will be different. This is what the OWA says on the subject:

Ensuring an Effective Youth and Criminal Justice System

We are firmly committed to tackling the root causes of problematic behaviour, wherever it occurs, in a robust way. We aim to prevent offending and re-offending amongst young people. We will also consider the potential for devolution of some or all of the criminal justice system.

In our programme of government:

• We will continue prioritisation of preventative intervention and non-custodial solutions in relation to youth offending and youth justice matters (a) in the funding of these areas (b) in the use of diversion from custody strategies consistent with an emphasis on evidence on efficacy.

• We will consider effective models of cross-cutting practice between the youth justice system and education, housing and mental health services.

• We will consider the evidence for the devolution of the criminal justice system within the contexts of (a) devolution of funding and (b) moves towards the establishment of a single administration of justice in Wales.
In other words exactly the sort of direction that Prof Morgan wanted Youth Justice to take ... before he was over-ruled by Westminster.

Today's report shows that "England and Wales" has spectacularly failed to deliver. So we in Wales should surely now be pressing for the powers to deal with this matter in a way that suits our situation. I'm convinced we can do a better job ... after all, we can hardly do worse.

Our government has committed itself to do this ... so let's make sure they deliver on this commitment and, in particular, that Paul Murphy and Labour MPs in Westminster don't obstruct it.
MH, 27 May 2008 3:47 am, wrote:If any of you want some interesting bedtime reading, Plaid's Policy paper on the issue, Making Our Communities Safer, can be downloaded here:

Youth Justice MakingOurCommunitiesSafer

It's 23 pages, but here are some key points:

Executive Summary

Criminal justice policies are not working. The UK has the highest rates of imprisonment among all Western European countries, with record numbers of children locked up. This is despite the fact that crime levels have fallen over the last ten years. Two thirds of prisoners go on to re-offend, while crime victim rates are 30% higher than the European average. Levels of suicide, substance use problems and mental disorders are high among the UK prison population.

New Labour has adopted a shamelessly populist approach to crime in response to simplistic focus groups which tell them that crime is the voters’ chief concern. Little regard has been paid to what works. We have seen a public campaign which has resulted in the demonisation of young people.

Successive UK governments have treated the symptoms of crime and not the causes. Causes include problematic substance use, poverty, poor parental relationships, abuse and a lack of youth facilities.


Powers to deal with police, prisons, probation, the courts and sentencing should be
devolved to Wales so that the Welsh Assembly government of the day can apply its chosen policies in those areas. The government's agenda would be implemented with the democratic mandate of the people of Wales.

Under these circumstances, a Plaid Cymru government would pursue an alternative criminal justice strategy, focussing on tackling the causes of crime, reducing fear of crime and thereby making our communities safer. This strategy would include:

• Freeing up resources to invest in public sector community rehabilitation and meaningful offending behaviour programmes in prison for those convicted of offences serious enough to warrant custody. The prison population could be reduced significantly with changes to sentencing policy to emphasise more community-based rehabilitation.

• The creation of a Welsh Youth Justice Board and consideration of the Finnish youth justice system as a model for Wales. Finland has a very small number of children in custody. Instead there is a wide variety of psychiatric provision to deal with behavioural problems at an early stage.

• Expanding Social Service Departments to carry out more preventative work. Networks of child counsellors could be employed to work alongside an expanded Child and Adult Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

• Replacing ASBOs with a system of restorative justice, mentoring and conferencing.

• A twenty year substance use strategy, focussing on harm reduction and including multidisciplinary substance use teams working with criminal justice agencies on individually designed care plans. Problematic substance users should be treated as patients. Primary school children should receive harm reduction education, with an emphasis on the promotion of mental wellbeing and suicide/self-harm prevention. There is also an urgent need for a wide-ranging public debate on the future of drug enforcement laws.

• A generational strategy to tackle hate or power-based crime. The primary school
curriculum should contain ‘relationships education’ which aims to challenge and change early signs of sexist, racist, homophobic and bullying or abusive attitudes. It should also cover questions of sexual health, contraception, domestic abuse and sexual consent.

• Protecting children from adult violence through the ending of the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’. Adults convicted of smacking children in their care should be sentenced to parenting skills/social work intervention.

• A comprehensive strategy to reduce fear of crime through investment in facilities for young people, youth support workers and a citizens’ public service scheme to bridge the gap between older and younger generations and the need to ‘hang around on street corners’.
I was also pleased to see on Dragon's Eye that the Police Federation are now in favour of devolving policing to Wales. One very good reason would have been that the Welsh Government would certainly have paid their increase in full, rather than staging it.

This means that there is a very solid consensus in Wales in favour of devolving this issue. This includes both police chiefs and the rank and file officers; the judiciary and legal profession; and the majority of AMs.

It would seem the only people standing against it are Jacqui Smith and the usual lone voice in the wilderness, David Davies ... who seems to be under the illusion that it means inventing a new system from scratch. Bless.
MH, 2 Jun 2008 1:19 am, wrote:In yesterday's Observer there was another story detailing the failure of the UK government's policies on youth justice.

Labour's 10-year strategy for tackling youth crime has failed, according to a damning internal government report. The briefing document says that around 25 per cent of under-18s have committed an offence, while reoffending rates are 'very high and have not significantly changed' since 1997.

The embarrassing disclosures come despite a massive increase in the budget for tackling youth crime and counter Labour claims that the government has had significant success in reducing rates of offending among the young.

The briefing notes that '5 to 6 per cent' of young offenders commit between 50 and 60 per cent of all juvenile crime, with an average of 30 to 40 offences a year. The worst offenders have a 96 per cent reoffending rate, with each costing taxpayers £80,000 a year.

Despite the courts handing down some 34,000 community and 7,000 custodial sentences a year, reoffending rates in Britain remain some of the highest in the world. The document reveals that 70 per cent of male offenders under the age of 18 who receive a community sentence commit further crimes, compared with 76 per cent of those who are given a custodial sentence.

The briefing suggests that the youth justice system raises 'barriers to effective resettlement' after young offenders have finished their sentences and that by setting strict supervision conditions it leads to an increasing number of children breaching their orders, which in turn triggers more custodial sentences.
Now of course this report appears in the Guardian's sister paper. So its purpose, as you might guess, is to pave the way for a "new government initiative" in the area. In this case it

comes ahead of Labour's Youth Crime Action Plan, a major new initiative which will be unveiled in the summer.
The only problem is that old new Labour and new new Labour (represented by Straw and Balls) are still fighting over what it's going to say. Usually a sure sign that it will indeed "sound" new, but won't make any actual difference at all.


We are being let down by this failure. This is because the groundswell of opinion in middle England simply won't allow the more rational elements in Labour to implement things that the Tory press will immediately brand as being "soft on crime".

We in Wales simply don't fall for that sort of tosh to anywhere near the same extent. Therefore, left to our own devices, we could make the changes necessary. That is why we need to make sure that the Youth and Criminal Justice system is devolved to Wales.
MH, 10 Jun 2008 2:56 am, wrote:Even I am begining to suspect that story after story on this subject over the past few weeks is more than a co-incidence. But the latest scathing reports on the way the UK treats children within the Youth and Criminal Justice system, simply adds more fuel to the fire.

All four Children's Commissioners in the UK have united in condemning the UK for it's policies towards children, but the Welsh Commissioner, Keith Towler, has made some comments which are particularly relevant to Wales:

“It also seems to me that the Westminster Government is working against the grain of a children’s rights approach and is holding us back from supporting children and young people tied up in youth justice and those seeking asylum. There is a real need to allow children caught up in these systems to be treated as children first and allow them to exercise their rights.”

He is also frustrated that Welsh politicians have not been able to push forward with the goal of banning smacking.

The commissioners’ report states: “It is important to note that the Welsh Assembly Government agrees with the committee that all physical punishment should be prohibited but, due to the constitutional settlement for Wales, is unable to change the law. The legislative power to affect the desired change lies with the UK Parliament.”

It continues: “In passing the Children Act 2004, the UK Parliament disregarded the views of the Welsh Assembly Government and the fact that the National Assembly of Wales had recently passed a motion regretting the UK Government’s failure to prohibit the physical punishment of children in the family.”
Now, there are many things which are common to all four countries in the UK, but what Keith Towler has mentioned is particularly important because, left to our own devices, our government (reflecting the views the majority of voters in Wales) would make changes that would make the system better than in the RUK .. if only Westminster allowed us to.

Other factors, the most notable of which is child poverty, are things we can't do much to tackle while we have no responsibility for the tax and benefits system.

And other factors, such as mental health, are things which we do have power to control ... and it is entirely our own fault that we have fallen short in this area.

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Youth Justice Empty Re: Youth Justice

Post  ged_deschain on Wed 18 Feb 2009 - 3:34

Devolving power enjoy it while it lasts look at the bigger picture if you want to save Wales


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Youth Justice Empty Youth justice system in England

Post  sonia2010 on Wed 11 Jan 2012 - 15:43

Youth justice system in England and Wales comprises the organs and processes that are used to prosecute, convict and punish persons under 18 years of age who commit criminal offences. The principal aim of the youth justice system is to prevent offending by children and young persons.


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Youth Justice Empty Youth justice system in England

Post  sonia2010 on Fri 13 Jan 2012 - 20:22

After a person under 17 has been arrested and taken to a police station, Code C to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 requires that the custody officer ascertain the identity of a parent, guardian, Local Authority carer or any other person who has assumed responsibility for the juvenile's welfare and must inform them of the arrest. The custody officer should inform the appropriate adult (who may or may not be the same person) of the grounds for the detainee's detention and ask the adult to come to the police station to see the detainee. The juvenile should be told of the duties of the appropriate adult and that the juvenile can consult privately with the appropriate adult at any time, but warned that such conversations are not privileged.


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