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ADCS responds to MoJ White Paper on sentencing

Commenting on the release of the Ministry of Justice White Paper “A smarter approach to sentencing”, Jenny Coles, ADCS President said:

“We welcome efforts to prevent crime and make communities safer, however, longer sentences will not help us to achieve this. We’ve made excellent progress in reducing the numbers entering the youth justice system over the last decade but too many children and young people go on to reoffend after serving a custodial sentence. For those who end up in custody, better support during their sentence as well as ongoing support to help them resettle into their communities and break the cycle of reoffending is key. Education is absolutely critical to this - it opens the door to positive opportunities such as long-term employment and training – so too is meeting children’s health and care needs. This is recognised in the White Paper, as it was in Charlie Taylor’s review several years ago, we need to see the pace of change increase, rapidly rising rates of violence and self-harm across the youth custodial estate underline the need for change.

“There are some encouraging proposals in the White Paper in relation to children and young people who are already in conflict with the law, such as reducing the amount of time some young people are required to disclose details of their convictions to prospective employers and the greater use of community resolutions. This must sit alongside a focus on supporting children and young people earlier to prevent offending in the first place as well as rehabilitation, funding to support youth offending teams and wider children’s services to shift the dial on this will be critical but is unremarked upon here. We also need greater emphasis and investment in tackling the root causes of offending behaviours, including poor mental and physical health, family dysfunction and low educational attainment, which will save the public purse money in the long run.

“Some of the proposals around sentencing are concerning. Although the distinct and unique needs of children are recognised in the Paper the government’s plans more closely align the youth and adult justice systems. Whilst we recognise custodial sentences are necessary for the most serious crimes, children and young people’s offending behaviours must not blind us to their underlying needs and vulnerabilities and their capacity for change. ADCS would welcome an opportunity to discuss this further with government.”


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