lordcalileA Parliamentary inquiry into the operation and effectiveness of the youth courts system has been launched under the chairmanship of Lord Carlile QC.

The inquiry will draw on evidence from youth justice and legal experts as well as the experiences of children and young people themselves. The inquiry is being coordinated by the National Children’s Bureau with support from the Michael Sieff Foundation.

The inquiry, which runs until spring 2014, comes amid growing concerns that criminal and youth courts do not, in their current form, offer the most effective means of dealing with young offenders. In particular, the inquiry will consider whether youth courts are succeeding in preventing youth offending given the high reoffending rates for convicted under-18s, particularly for those leaving custody of whom 7 in 10 are reconvicted within one year. The inquiry will also evaluate whether the current system adequately protects the welfare of young people, and if the crown court is appropriate for those committing serious offences.

After launching the inquiry today [23 Sept], Lord Carlile said: "This inquiry goes to the heart of the Youth Justice system in England and Wales. It will examine the effectiveness of the youth court system, in particular its wider role in preventing youth crime. We want to see an improved youth court that better addresses youth offending, and delivers a better deal for victims and wider society."

'Joined-up approach to children in trouble'
The inquiry has been prompted by cases including the disturbing ‘Edlington case’ in 2009, which highlighted the absence of a holistic, joined-up approach to children in trouble by some youth courts. In too many cases the criminal court system responds to child offending in near isolation from the welfare problems from which criminality so often flows.

Enver Solomon, Director of Evidence and Impact at the NCB added: “We welcome the work of this inquiry and hope it will provide fresh impetus for improving how the youth court system works. Given the significant number of children and young people that appear before the courts with complex welfare needs, it is imperative that decisions take account of their life circumstances and how best to ensure they are supported to stop offending.”