RESPONSE TO TODAY’S PARLIAMENTARY INQUIRY INTO YOUTH COURT


Award-winning charity Just for Kids Law welcomes the findings of the Independent Parliamentarians’ Inquiry into Operation and Effectiveness of Youth Court.

Director and barrister Shauneen Lambe said:

‘We wholeheartedly support the findings of this independent inquiry into the workings of the youth court, which was long overdue. Every day, we see examples of how the youth courts are failing young people, failing victims, and failing to provide justice.’

Shauneen acted as an expert adviser to the panel, which was chaired by Lord Carlile CBE QC, and made up of politicians from all the main political parties.

The inquiry findings support Just for Kids Law’s experience of children and young people being prosecuted, and ending up with a permanent criminal record, for the most trivial offences.

Examples of unnecessary prosecutions include:

– for stealing a sandwich, while living on the street (report, page 9);
– criminal damage to a bra strap (Just for Kids Law client)

The report concludes (p9):

‘The police and CPS do not always have regard to the best interests of the child when making prosecutional decisions.’

We agree with the inquiry’s call for lawyers doing youth court work to be specially trained, not just in the youth law, but also in how to communicate effectively with vulnerable young clients.

Research shows that (report, p14):

– A third of young people in custody have special educational needs;
– 60% have a communication disability;
– A quarter have IQs of less than 70.

These findings are matched by Just for Kids Law’s own experiences, with the young people that we help. However, we believe that even the brightest young person will struggle to understand the court process, without special help from their lawyer.

Just for Kids Law Youth Ambassador Frankie, 21, says:

‘The courts are not kid friendly. No one has talked to kids about what works. I was lucky because I trusted my lawyer understood and would do the best for me and explain to me later. Lots of kids don’t have that. You have to believe the lawyer is doing the best for you because they are the grown up in the system.’

Shauneen Lambe says:

‘Our experience is that offending by children and young people flows from a wide range of needs. That is why we believe our holistic model of working with young people in difficulty is more effective for preventing reoffending.’

For more information, contact:

Fiona Bawdon 07740 644474; fionabawdon@justforkidslaw.org

Mary-Rachel McCabe 020 3174 2279;mary-rachelmccabe@justforkidslaw.org