Restorative Justice adds its name to concern about current child justice arrangements

The Standing Committee for Youth Justice has released a report that criticises the government for its plans to increase the use of digital technology when it comes to sentencing children. It has also written an open letter to The Times, which has been signed by Restorative Solutions' Chief Executive, Gary Stephenson. 

You can read more about the report here 

The open letter to the Times was as follows:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Recently a 17-year-old boy was sentenced to prison for ten years. He pleaded guilty but his case overran. The judge decided to sentence the boy by video link early on a Monday morning. His Youth Offending Team officer was not consulted about the use of the video link. The boy will have been alone (save for a prison officer) in a small room at the prison when he heard his sentence, isolated from his lawyer and his family. The evidence shows that children (under 18-year-olds) in court, many of whom have communication problems, struggle to understand what is going on and to participate effectively in proceedings. How much more difficult to do so if you are sat hundreds of miles from the court and separated from everybody there by a video screen? The SCYJ research report, published today, shows that children are not only less likely to understand, but they can neither properly consult with their lawyer, parent or guardian, nor communicate adequately with the judge in court. We are concerned that video link risks making it much harder for children to comprehend the seriousness of their crimes and the harm they have caused. Justice by “skype” has been used with adult defendants since 2000, but has only recently begun to be used with child defendants. It is being deployed for first appearances, remand and sentencing hearings, despite strong indications that it impedes children’s participation in the process, prejudices outcomes and undermines the seriousness of proceedings. The government are pressing ahead with proposals to increase the use of video links for child defendants as part of the digital court reform programme and have even suggested that they should plead guilty to serious crimes on their mobile phones. There is no research on the effect on child defendants of being disconnected from the physical court. We call on the government to halt the expansion of justice by skype or mobile for child defendants until we know its effects. Until then, we argue for a firm presumption against the use of video links for child defendants, save for the most exceptional circumstances.

Yours sincerely,

  • Gess Aird, Director, Kinetic Youth

  • Dr Raymond Arthur, Head of Subject (Law), Northumbria School of Law

  • Bob Ashford, Founder, WipetheSlateClean

  • Dr Tim Bateman, Reader in Youth Justice, University of Bedfordshire

  • Bird and Co Solicitors

  • Anthony Book, Treasurer, Standing Committee for Youth Justice

  • Professor Mary Bosworth, Director, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford

  • Phil Bowen, Director, Centre for Justice Innovation

  • BSB Solicitors

  • Kate Bulman, Registered Nurse

  • Professor Steve Case, Loughborough University

  • Joanne Cecil, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

  • Louise King, Director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE)

  • Dave Clarke, Chair, Secure Accommodation Network (SAN)

  • Criminal Bar Association

  • Peter Dawson, Director, Prison Reform Trust

  • Anne-Marie Day, University of Wolverhampton

  • Anne-Marie Douglas, CEO, Peer Power

  • John Drew, Chair, Criminal Justice Alliance

  • Caroline Dyer, Chair, YOT Managers Cymru

  • Kathy Evans, CEO, Children England

  • Natasha Finlayson, CEO, Become

  • Rhona Friedman, Solicitor, Commons Law

  • Kamini Gadhok, CEO, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

  • Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe, Director, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge

  • Penelope Gibbs, Director, Transform Justice

  • Professor Barry Goldson, Charles Booth Chair of Social Science, University of Liverpool

  • Pippa Goodfellow, Senior Lecturer in Youth Justice, Nottingham Trent University

  • Dr Faith Gordon, Director, Youth Justice Network, and Lecturer in Criminology, University of Westminster.

  • Dr Di Hart, Children’s Services Consultant

  • Tom Hawker-Dawson, Bye-Fellow in Law, Downing College, University of Cambridge.

  • Professor Kathryn Hollingsworth, Newcastle Law School

  • Professor Mike Hough, Birkbeck, University of London

  • Professor Carolyn Hoyle, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford

  • Dr Jessica Jacobson, Director, Institute for Criminal Policy Research

  • Peter Jones, Director of Social Justice and Rehabilitation, Catch22

  • Lorraine Khan, Associate Director for Children and Young People, Centre for Mental Health

  • Dr Caroline Lanskey, Lecturer in Applied Criminology, University of Cambridge

  • Caroline Liggins, Solicitor, Hodge Jones & Allen LLP

  • Ross Little, Chair, National Association for Youth Justice (NAYJ)

  • London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association

  • Yvonne MacNamara, CEO, The Traveller Movement

  • Richard Mold, Director, Devon Young People’s Trust

  • Catherine O’Neill, Chair, Intermediaries for Justice

  • Mary O’Shaugnessy, Consultant

  • Professor Nicola Padfield, Professor of Criminal and Penal Justice, University of Cambridge

  • Professor Jo Phoenix, Chair of Criminology, Open University

  • Joe Russo, CEO, The Enthusiasm Trust

  • Professor Hannah Smithson, Professor of Criminology and Youth Justice, Manchester Metropolitan University.

  • Enver Solomon, CEO, Just for Kids Law

  • Martha Spurrier, Director, Liberty

  • Christopher Stacey, Co-Director, Unlock

  • Gary Stephenson, CEO, Restorative Solutions

  • Greg Stewart, Director, GT Stewart Solicitors & Advocates

  • Jacob Tas, CEO, Nacro

  • John Tenconi, Chair, Michael Sieff Foundation

  • Lesley Tregear, Chair, Association of YOT Managers

  • George Turner, CEO, Carney’s Community

  • Alexandra Wigzell, Chair, Standing Committee for Youth Justice

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