IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

Join Donate

Get News Updates:
  • Print
  • Email author
  • Bookmark and Share

UK: 'Rules of Engagement: Changing the Heart of Youth Justice'

17th January 2012

A policy report by the Centre for Social Justice/Youth Justice Working Group, examining the efficiency of the Youth Justice System in the UK, has just been published.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has previously reported on the failures of services to prevent youth crime or effectively rehabilitate offenders. It is these observations that prompted the CSJ to embark on a review of the youth justice system in early 2010.

The CSJ found that the Youth Justice System was being used as a backstop; all the cases which other local agencies failed to adequately address were ending up entering the youth justice system. The report also highlights  how the current system actually promotes, rather than reduces, offending. Also, the importance of involving families to help prevent offending and assist with rehabilitation is constantly being overlooked.

The key recommendations that emerged across the Youth Justice System were:

  • Prevention; 
  • Out-of-court activity;
  • Court procedure;
  • Community sentencing; 
  • Custodial sentences and the juvenile secure estate;
  • Resettlement; 
  • Delivery; and  
  • The minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR)

The CSJ believes that the Youth Justice System is in urgent need of reform. Many young people are falling into the system unnecessarily and are then unable to free themselves as they are not provided with the suitable rehabilitation supports, and then find themselves ending up in the adult prisons.

A lack of joined-up thinking and multi-agency response is leading to minor offences being treated with unnecessary and ineffective custodial solutions.  The CSJ highlights that effective prevention is only possible when there is comprehensive intervention from a range of services at an early stage, and families must be encouraged and supported to also take part in the rehabilitative process.

The CSJ recommends that a minimum custodial sentence should be set at 6 months so as to encourage non-custodial sentences for minor offences and prevent short term sentences that lack credibility.  This will then ensure that only those serious young offenders will serve a custodial sentence.

Read the full report here.