Youth Justice

There has been a 64 per cent drop in the number of young people being dealt with in the youth justice system. The reduction reflects an underlying fall in youth crime, but also a sustained commitment by police and the courts to finding other ways of dealing with young offenders to avoid criminalising them. Clive Anderson and guests discuss the need for further reforms.

Barrister Shauneen Lambe, executive director of Just for Kids Law, says the system is still too punitive and does not adequately deal with young people with the most serious problems, including repeat offenders.

Solicitor Greg Stewart who has represented young offenders in court for 25 years, says many of the recent reforms simply "re-arranged the furniture" and believes further wholesale changes are needed, including raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility. At 10 years old in England and Wales, it is among the lowest in the world.

Also taking part are Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney who leads for the National Police Chiefs Council on young people's issues, and Malcolm Richardson, chair of the Magistrates Association.

The programme discusses new sentencing guidelines for young offenders, a damning report on youth custody institutions by the Chief Inspector of Prisons and a new report by David Lammy raising serious concerns about the treatment of black, Asian and minority ethnic young people in the youth justice system.

Clive asks if our system is currently too harsh or too lenient in its approach to young offenders. Do we have the right range of punishments and alternatives to custodial sentences? Do our courts sufficiently recognise recent advances in understanding of the adolescent brain?

Producer: Brian King
A 7digital production for BBC Radio 4.

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