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20 Feb 2014

Deaths of Children in Custody: Independent review’s scope must be widened

Responding to the Youth Justice Board report Deaths of Children in Custody: Action Taken, Lessons Learnt, published today (20 February), Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:

“We welcome this report. Although we are disappointed that the deaths of children in custody are not to be included in an independent review announced by the Ministry of Justice last week, there are very important lessons to be learned from the Youth Justice Board’s response to these tragedies. However, we are concerned that an opportunity has been missed. Through its Youth Offending Teams, the Youth Justice Board has responsibility for children when they first start to get into trouble, and its duties to care for their welfare must be paramount.  The failure to consider what happens before they have entered custody and the sentencing decision is a serious mistake. This report focuses only on what happened to them after they were incarcerated. Earlier concentration on these children’s welfare needs, with the closer involvement of children’s services, could have prevented these crimes and the custodial sentences in the first place.

“At some point someone has to review the sentencing and remanding actions of the courts, because they too must bear some responsibility for the incarceration of children who then go on either to self-injure or die. So far, no one has held the courts accountable for this in any way. The narrow scope of this government-led inquiry only hammers home the need for the scope of the forthcoming truly independent review of deaths of young people in custody to be extended to children.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.

Further information

Rob Preece
Press Officer
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