Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

This book provides social work practitioners and allied professionals with an applied understanding of the formal legislation, policy and guidance relating to young people who are considered 'at risk' of, accused of, or convicted of involvement in offending or anti-social behaviour.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
Working with young people in the youth justice system is a challenging area of practice that requires a particular depth of knowledge and skill. It is an increasingly politicized area of social work, with politicians and successive governments seeking to make a visible impact (Johns, 2011), resulting in a rapidly developing body of legislation and national standards for practice. Practitioners are expected to uphold the sometimes conflicting values of both social work and youth justice and also have to balance the potential ethical and moral dilemmas within their work with young people who are involved in offending behaviour. Many of these children and young people will have caused considerable emotional, physical, financial and social harm to others, yet they demonstrate the same needs and are entitled to the same rights as all children.
Jo Staines

1. Understanding and Preventing Offending Behaviour

Abstract
Every local authority has a duty under s. 37 CDA 1998 to work towards the reduction of crime and disorder, with an explicit emphasis on preventing offending by children and young people. This is echoed in the YJB’s National Standards for Youth Justice Services (2013a) with National Standard 1: ‘Preventing Offending’ stipulating that local strategies and services are established to prevent children and young people from becoming involved in crime and/or anti-social behaviour, and to support their parents/carers and families. The use of preventative and diversionary measures is emphasized by the UNCRC 1989, recognizing that such measures can be cost effective by avoiding the need for full judicial proceedings, reducing stigmatization, and having beneficial outcomes for children. However, such programmes must ensure that children’s rights and safeguards are fully respected. For example, individual orders should only be used where there is convincing evidence that the child is involved in or has been clearly identified as being at risk of involvement in offending or anti-social behaviour, where they acknowledge responsibility and give consent, and where the acknowledgment will not be used against them in any subsequent legal proceedings.
Jo Staines

2. Arrest and Detention by the Police

Abstract
This chapter discusses the legal processes involved when children and young people are stopped and searched by the police, arrested and/or detained in a police station, with reference to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 and associated legislation and guidance. Particular attention is given to the role of appropriate adults and guidance relating to interviewing and detaining children and young people in the police station. Tensions between processes in the police station and the UNCRC are considered, for example, the limitation of the right to silence, as an illustration of children and young people’s particular vulnerabilities within the youth justice system. Issues of discrimination and inequality are discussed, for example, ethnic and racial discrimination within police stop and search practice. The range of powers available to the police in regard to children and young people is discussed, including youth cautions and youth conditional cautions (YCCs), and youth restorative disposals (YRDs).
Jo Staines

3. In the Youth Court

Abstract
Following the outline of the processes by which children and young people come to court (arrest and police bail or summons) in Chapter 2, this chapter considers subsequent court hearings, the decision to remand a child or young person to local authority accommodation or on bail, and the role of the YOT in writing PSRs. Chapter 4 then outlines the sentences available to the court after a finding of guilt. The operation of the courts is governed by the Criminal Procedure Rules (issued and regularly updated by the MoJ (MoJ, undated)), which guide criminal case management, outline the explicit powers and responsibilities of courts in active case management and aim to reduce the numbers of ineffective hearings in courts.
Jo Staines

4. Community Sentences

Abstract
This chapter considers the community sentences available for children and young people convicted of a criminal offence in either the Youth Court or the Crown Court. Custodial sentences for more serious and/or more persistent offenders are discussed in Chapter 5. The purpose of sentencing is set out in the CJIA 2008: courts must have regard to the principal aim of the youth justice system, which is to prevent offending and reoffending (s. 9(2)(a)) (see Introduction). Courts must also have regard to the welfare of the offenders in accordance with s. 44 CYPA 1933 and, in addition, should take account of the following purposes of sentencing (s. 9(3)):
  • the punishment of offenders;
  • the reform and rehabilitation of offenders;
  • the protection of the public; and
  • the making of reparation by offenders to persons affected by their offences.
The Supreme Court has commented, in relation to children and young people, that a key aim ‘of any sentence imposed should be to promote the process of maturation, the development of a sense of responsibility, and the growth of a healthy adult personality and identity’ (R v Secretary of State, ex parte Maria Smith [2005], Baroness Hale at para. 25). This is reiterated in para. 1.a3 of the guidelines for sentencing young people, issued by the Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC) (now the Sentencing Council) in 2009, which states that ‘the intention [of sentencing] is to establish responsibility and, at the same time, to promote re-integration rather than to impose retribution’.
Jo Staines

5. Custodial Sentences

Abstract
The influence of popular punitivism in the 1990s led to England and Wales having one of the highest rates of child incarceration in Western Europe, despite arguably lower rates of offending behaviour (Junger-Tas et al., 1994; Gould and Payne, 2004). However, significant reductions in the child custodial population (those aged under 18) have been achieved recently, partly as a result of the impact of early intervention, prevention and diversionary programmes on the number of children and young people appearing at court (Chapter 1) and other changes in sentencing practice, such as the introduction of the YRO (Chapter 4). The average custodial population of under-18s has reduced by approximately 60 per cent from over 3000 in 2008 to 1544 in 2012/2013 (1708 if 18-year-olds held in the youth secure estate are included) (MoJ, 2014). However, the average custody rate (the proportion of sentences passed in court that are custodial) has remained relatively static over the last decade and was 6.4 per cent in 2012/2013; furthermore the average length of time spent in custody on a DTO has increased from 106 days in 2008/2009 to 115 days in 2012/2013 (MoJ, 2014). This may reflect changes in the population of young people appearing before the courts: as early intervention and prevention programmes and diversionary schemes divert young people from the courts, those who do come before the courts may have a greater history of offending and so receive harsher penalties (MoJ, 2013a); or it may reflect increasingly punitive attitudes towards those receiving custodial sentences.
Jo Staines

Conclusions

Abstract
Significant progress has been made in meeting the primary aim of the youth justice system — to prevent offending – with fewer first-time entrants to the system, resulting in fewer community and custodial sentences being passed. The success of YOTs in developing holistic, multi-agency working with young people who offend has partly resulted from policy changes, with a heightened focus on diversion, early intervention and prevention, and increased scope for professional discretion, and partly from demands for financial savings and economic constraints. The progress made also reflects a greater recognition of the potential vulnerability of children and young people involved in offending behaviour and the need to align youth justice legislation with the ECHR, the UNCRC and the Human Rights Act 1998. However, caution is still needed — youth justice’s position as a key ‘political football’ suggests that the relentless pace of change is likely to continue. Recent history has shown that numerous initiatives have been introduced without being allowed to bed in or become fully operational before they are superseded by the next big idea (Hucklesby and Wahidin, 2013), and there is no reason to believe that this will change. For the last half-century, political parties have sought to sell their criminal justice policies to the electorate; there is an important populist element in the way policy is formed, with the shared assumption that being tough on crime and claiming to promote the interests of victims rather than defendants will bring electoral success (Ashworth and Redmayne, 2010). Although defeated in its attempts, the Coalition’s desire to widen the scope of civil injunctions against ‘nuisance and annoyance’ suggests that it believes that tough early intervention is needed, with zero tolerance for the transgressions made by children and young people.
Jo Staines
Additional information