A group of care-experienced young people has been working with youth-justice experts in Britain to create a new guide for solicitors and barristers who are representing them.
Research shows that care-experienced children are up to six times more likely to be criminalised than other children.
In 2022, just 1% of children in England were in care, but 59% of children in custody in England and Wales were care-experienced.
The Drive Forward Foundation believes that the practical guide for lawyers will help to reduce the over-criminalisation of care-experienced children and young adults.
Law and policy affecting care-experienced children and young adults can be used to achieve fairer outcomes, the organisation states.
The guide was launched today (13 September) at the House of Commons in Westminster. It will be a key resource for all lawyers working with children and young adults in the criminal justice system.
It provides testimony from children and young adults, alongside the key legal framework, and practical tips for lawyers.
Youth Justice Legal Centre director Laura Cooper said: “It is incredibly unjust that care-experienced children are disproportionately represented in the criminal-justice system when these are the very children we should be supporting.
“We are extremely proud to publish this comprehensive legal guide, which we know will be a vital resource for practitioners in preventing the unnecessary criminalisation of care-experienced children.”
Jordan Morgan, founder of the Policy Forum and Drive Forward Foundation trustee said: “To complement this vitally important guide, the Policy Forum is calling for Britain’s Justice Select Committee to urgently launch an inquiry into youth-diversion schemes and their application to care-experienced young people.
“We warmly welcome collaboration to achieve this aim and to support young people leaving the care system to live a full, dignified life where their aspirations can be met with opportunities.”
Barrister Kate Aubrey-Johnson said: “Care-experienced children and young adults deserve lawyers who understand their needs, the legal protections available, and the reasons why they are so vulnerable to criminalisation.
“Our hope is that this new legal guide will play a key part in addressing the shocking overrepresentation of care-experienced children and young adults in the criminal-justice system.”
The guide is free to access online. ‘Dare to Care: Representing Care-experienced Young People’ is written by Kate Aubrey-Johnson (barrister) and Dr Laura Janes (solicitor) in collaboration with the policy forum at the Drive Forward Foundation, and is published by the Youth Justice Legal Centre.
Many other very useful legal guides and toolkits are available on the Youth Justice Legal Centre website, https://yjlc.uk. Though these apply specifically to the justice system in Britain, many of them provide useful guidance for dealing with young people caught up in the justice system here.