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Include Youth response to NI Audit Office Report Managing Children who Offend

Include Youth response to NI Audit Office Report Managing Children who Offend

Responding to the NI Audit Office report published today, Include Youth Policy Coordinator, Paula Rodgers said:

"This report clearly indicates the need for a new approach in how we deal with children who come into contact with the criminal justice system. Include Youth have long drawn attention to the need for reform how we respond to our most vulnerable children. This is not the first report to call for change. The 2011 review of the Youth Justice System and subsequent reports from the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, have made recommendations calling for improvement. Many of these recommendations remain unmet. It is deeply frustrating for those organisations who work directly with children and young people to see the slow pace of change. Urgent action is required.

We hope that the NIAO report will revitalise and renew government departments shared commitment to putting children's best interests at the heart of our Youth Justice System, not just in principle, but in demonstrable practice and concrete actions. We particularly welcome the focus on the need to look at alternatives to custody.

We know from our direct experience of working with children and young people that it is often those who are the most vulnerable and disadvantaged who come into contact with the Criminal Justice System. These children and young people have a range of complex needs which cannot be met within the Criminal Justice System, and indeed if their needs had have been addressed at an earlier point by other government departments and agencies, many of the children would not have ended up in the justice system. Children and young people's needs must be placed at the centre of all interactions.

We continue to see looked after children over represented in the Youth Justice System and remain concerned about the inappropriate use of custody, in particular for those with complex needs. We know that children continue to be detained in custody because there is a lack of alternative accommodation. The use of custody as a last resort is an issue that had been identified previously by the Youth Justice Review in 2011 and Criminal Justice Inspection.

There remains a very high number of children placed in the Juvenile Justice Centre on remand. Latest figures from YJA reveal that in 2014/15 there were a total of 12,400 days of custody provided by the Juvenile Justice Centre (JJC), 60% for remand and 37% for sentence.

Cross-departmental buy in is critical to the success of any new approach to how we deal with these children and we look forward to engaging in discussions on how this would operate in practice."

-ENDS-


Media enquiries: For more information contact Dara Mulholland, Communications Officer at Include Youth, on 028 9031 1007 / dara@includeyouth.org