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Displaying items by tag: Children

Article 37 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child envisages children having 'appropriate assistance' and that arrest and detention 'shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.'

In England and Wales these requirements found in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the Children Act 1989, the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and most recently the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. All contain provisions that exclude or are unclear about their application to 17 year olds with two raising questions of conflict concerning children below the age of 13 years. 

This commentary is drawn from a comprehensive study which addresses the provision of appropriate adult services to safeguard children and young people detained or interviewed by police officers. What the study demonstrates is that transposition into legislation is one thing: transposition into practice is an entirely different matter with the safeguarding of children being a postcode lottery. 

In some areas of the country arrangements are excellent the North East and Warwickshire have embedded, child-focused practice, whereas in far too many police force areas children seem to be the victims of statutory child neglect if not abuse.  London and Greater Manchester are the most obvious examples.

Upon a child having his detention authorised because it is necessary the custody officer must contact a number of people including an appropriate adult.  Emerging evidence suggests that in some areas there is inexplicable delay in doing so and this finding demands more detailed study. The practice of coercive detention to encourage a confession is not unheard of and needs to be disproved or proved.

The role of the appropriate adult is exceptionally complex, but usually a parent is the first person to be considered for the role. Where parents are unable to attend or are excluded from doing so, the custody officer will call upon the services of the local authority youth offending team.  In some areas they deliver the services themselves whilst in others arrangements are contracted out to the voluntary or private sectors.  Excellent arrangements exist where well-established voluntary organisations deliver  comprehensive services to children.  A good example is in Northamptonshire where Catch 22 delivers an integrated remand management service.

The role of the private sector is open to question with such providers charging the taxpayer up to £37 an hour.  In far too many areas appropriate adult services appears to have been redefined and restricted to process-driven requirements based around police interviews with scant regard for safeguarding in the context of the overall detention of children.

Not surprisingly, in areas where a limited service is delivered, usually under arrangements involving the private sector, children appear to be left overnight or longer in police cells.  There are a number of reasons for this.  Custody officers may be trigger-happy in requesting 'secure accommodation'; local authorities may be neglectful of their duty to receive and accommodate detained children; and appropriate adults may leave the police station at the earliest opportunity. 

The greatest concern in this scenario is that after charging a child, but before authorising his detention, the custody officer must consider the granting of bail including conditional bail.  The custody officer could be greatly helped in this respect if an appropriate adult or representative of the local authority was present to make proposals concerning overnight arrangements.

This is further aggravated by the fact that in all but a very few cases such children, having had bail refused at the police station, are granted bail once a court has addressed the three principles of reasonableness, substantiality and necessity as required under the Bail Act 1976.  Thus the decision-making of the custody officer appears to be flawed once matters have been judicially reviewed by a magistrates' court.

The statutory duty to safeguard children in police detention would be best promoted if the youth offending team camped out at the police station as happens in some areas such as Kingston upon Hull. When is practice going to be UNCRC compliant?

This independent study is being published incrementally with the full final report due by mid-July.  For the moment visit the author's website at www.youthjusticematters.info

Published in Have your say

Justice Minister Chris Grayling's well oiled PR machine has been very active in recent weeks with plenty of media coverage of plans to toughen up prisons and remove legal aid for 'criminals'. While all of this is concerning none of it is particularly new. What did catch my eye however was mention of plans to locate youth criminal justice services within schools – effectively opening prisons inside schools.

In an interview to the Times Educational Supplement (TES) magazine last week Grayling suggested that there could be scope to locate 'youth prisons' within the grounds of schools. He told the magazine that he is concerned that prisons are failing to offer education and skills that young people need to survive in the outside world – rather than stay on the straight and narrow they end up back in prison. In addressing this educational failure penal reformers have responded with alternatives. The first, outlined in the TES article is to not send young people to prison in the first place (aka the 'Swedish' approach where the age of criminal responsibility is set at 15 and children are diverted away from contact with the criminal justice system). The second, the 'California' approach, is to improve access to education. High schools are set up within prisons to offer young people a form of mainstream education.

Grayling's proposal is a somewhat novel (and worrying) third way. Why take the teachers to the prison when you can simply put the prison in the school? I can see the common sense here; children in prisons would benefit from mainstream education opportunities. But this proposal sets off a number of alarm bells. The idea that prisons should have educative and rehabilitative intentions is not new but whatever the educational goals, the punitive dimensions have always been to the fore and relatively transparent. By encouraging mainstream schools to house punitive institutions we risk blurring the lines between education and punishment. Arguably this blurring has already started – the use of CCTV cameras in schools, security guards and regular reliance on police to help manage behaviour is already widespread. Placing a prison within the walls of a school is perhaps just a natural next step.

Such a move would increase the presence and threat of punishment to young people who step out of line – and in particular children from certain communities already the focus of much criminal justice interest. The threat of the penal institution would loom even larger and offer a seamless transition from school, to pupil referral unit to prison. My guess is that poverty stricken areas and inner cities would be deemed most suitable for these 'prison in a school' institutions. I'm also left wondering who would run these institutions – Ministry of Justice? Department for Education? Or perhaps G4S or Securicor might want to set up a (not so) 'free' school? My heart sinks at the thought of the education system becoming closely aligned to criminal justice.

All children deserve an education – including children in prison. We should be looking at ways of keeping young people out of prisons and treating them as children first. Schools should be places of learning, safety and growth – not punishment, security and control.

Rebecca Roberts' article first appeared on the Reclaim Justice Network. For more information about the Network, to read other articles and find out how to support the campaign visit: here

 

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Published in Have your say

Spurgeons

(22/02/13)

For over 140 years, Spurgeons has worked on behalf of vulnerable children to strive to ensure they can live their lives free from neglect, abuse and exploitation. Staff are committed to providing the support that will enable these children to enjoy their childhood and fulfil their true potential.

The charity has a number of ongoing projects and currently works in visitor's centres at nine prisons.  Working with relevant agencies, Spurgeons ensures that a child visiting a relative in prison will receive additional support once the prison visit is over, and to help children to deal with the challenges prison life can bring for the entire family.

Published in User-Voices Practice

The 999 Club

(29/10/12)

The 999 Club runs two centres, both in the London area, which provide a wide range of support to vulnerable individuals; in particular, they aim to help those who have mental health problems, are suffering with drug or alcohol addiction, and those who are homeless. It has an open door policy, offering assistance in any circumstance to those who need it most.

Additionally, The 999 Club also runs a small nursery at one of its centres for the children of individuals with considerable social problems. The nursery provides a stable environment for the children, whilst allowing parents the time they desperately need to overcome these issues.

Published in User-Voices Practice

Send Family Link is a registered charity providing support services for families visiting women in custody at HMP Send, with a particular focus on children with a mother in prison. The aims are to reduce the emotional stress of visiting a loved one in prison and to help families maintain relationships during a prison sentence.

Nearly half of all prisoners lose contact with their families during a prison sentence. The Send Family Link volunteers and supporters make a real difference to families with a loved one in prison by helping to make the experience of visiting prison a positive one. Send Family Link provides supervised play activities for children during prison visits, advice and information for families, and refreshments. They also run special Family Days for mothers in prison to spend quality time with their children.
 

Published in Relationships Practice

Risk and protective factors in the resettlement of imprisoned fathers with their families by the Ormiston Children and Families Trust and the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge is a recent study in the UK and Europe which investigates risk and protective factors in the resettlement of imprisoned fathers and their families. The research aims to assist the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and third sector organisations working to support families to develop more effective interventions for imprisoned fathers, their (ex)partners and their children.

 

 

 

 

 

Published in Relationships Policy

Action for Prisoners' Families is the national membership organisation representing the needs of organisations working directly with families of prisoners across England and Wales. Action for Prisoners' Families represent the views of their members provides support to existing and new services. The organisation believes that families should not be discriminated against because of having someone in prison.

Published in Relationships Links

The Mental Health Foundation provides information, carries out research, campaigns and works to improve services for anyone affected by mental health problems, whatever their age and wherever they live. Our research, service development, policy and public and patient involvement teams work across public mental health and health promotion, mental health problems and severe mental illness.

Published in Health Links

This research examines the cost-effectiveness (in terms of impact on crime and health care) of substance misuse treatment for young people. It concludes that "the immediate and long-term benefits of specialist substance misuse treatment for young people are likely to significantly outweigh the cost of providing this treatment".

Published in Drugs Policy

Evaluation of the Family Pathfinders’ Programme, which pilots new ways of multi-agency working to support families with complex problems such as poverty, domestic abuse, poor mental health and substance misuse. The emerging findings of this programme provide practical examples of how local authorities can restructure service provision and develop new new working practices in response to the challenge of improving outcomes for these families.

Published in Relationships Policy
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