When young children are sentenced, they are detained
and placed in either the Young Offenders Institution (YOI), Secure Training
Centres or Local Authority Secure Children’s Homes. Issues have been raised as
to the practices used against young children in custody such as
strip-searching, segregation and physical techniques.1
This illustrates the incapability to care for vulnerable children who are sent
to institutions to better their lives and their futures. Additionally, it can
be argued that the justice systems use of imprisonment does not influence the
youth offender to understand and face accountability for his actions. The
offender is perhaps released on good behaviour and freed into society were the
same causes which contributed to his antisocial criminal behaviour in the first
place still exist.
Presently, the number of young children involved with
the YJS has dropped considerably. This reduction in numbers has been quite
consistent as the years have gone by, thereby suggesting that the current
justice system is working. The Ministry of Justice recorded that the number of
young children cautioned or convicted in 2015 dropped by 79% from the year
it was found that the number of first-time entrants into the YJS had dropped by
82% during the same period.3
This may potentially be since the police and youth offending services have
begun to deal with minor offending children informally, thus not going through
the actual process implemented with the current justice system.4
Regardless of the statistics mentioned above, the current
justice system in England and Wales is not enough for young children. Although
the figures indicate a drop in those convicted or cautioned, it does not
illustrate the number of those who re-offend and thus, those who are stuck in
the cycle of the YJS. In July 2013 to June 2014 approximately 1200 youth
offenders were released from custody and an estimated 67.7% of these youths
were proven to have reoffended within a year of release.5 They self-identify and become labelled as offenders, which increases
the rate of reoffending. Moreover, around 9000 youth offenders were
cautioned, convicted or released from custody from the October to December 2015
period, and approximately 4000 of these youths reoffended within a year
Evidently, the justice system could be better in terms of helping young
children by improving their welfare and essentially preventing them from
offending at first instance.
Carlile Inquiry’ (The Howard League for Penal Reform 2006)
Custody Report: September 2016’
(Ministry of Justice and Youth Justice Board 2016) page 1.
4 Charlie Taylor, ‘Review Of
The Youth Justice System In England And Wales’ (Ministry of Justice 2016) page 2.
Reoffending Statistics Quarterly Bulletin: July 2013 To June 2014’ (Ministry of Justice 2016) page 13.
6 ‘Proven Reoffending
Statistics Quarterly Bulletin’ (Ministry of Justice 2017) page 6.