Dominic Goble JP describes how Northamptonshire has adapted and developed its own community advice model for children appearing in their youth court.
Seven years ago, the Northamptonshire Magistracy started looking at ways to better support the children and young people who appeared before their youth courts. Soon afterwards in 2014, Lord Carlile of Berriew published his Independent Parliamentarians’ inquiry into the Operation and Effectiveness of the Youth Court, and spoke to his report at the Northamptonshire Symposium on Youth Justice that same year. During the two years that followed we had the pleasure of working with Mr Charlie Taylor, who was conducting a Governmental review of the Youth Justice System. With the Centre for Justice Innovation, Sieff and Nuffield Foundations all supporting youth justice reform, the Northamptonshire Magistracy was innovating and acting at the beginning of a time of change.
The intervening years have been busy – having already successfully implemented Youth Review Panels and Problem-Solving Hearings, we are now launching our third iteration of problem solving thinking: Youth Court Solutions. Built around the ACE model (Adverse Childhood Experiences), and with the knowledge that any brush with the criminal justice system constitutes an ACE and that approximately 70% of child victims go on to become offenders, Youth Court Solutions is designed to tackle these problems as early as possible, whenever a child or young person comes into contact with a courthouse.
The vast majority of children and young people who offend are often living with other difficulties far outside their own control. The vast majority have also been victims of crime or some other kind of abuse before finding themselves before the court for their own wrongdoing. Likewise, often the children or young people who are caught up in the criminal justice system as victims, witnesses or even as the siblings of those directly involved, are also experiencing tremendous difficulties which negatively impact their lives and restrict their opportunities in life. Building on our post-court reviews and in-court problem-solving hearings, we have turned our efforts to an at-court service to help tackle these underlying problems.
Youth Court Solutions, our at-court advice and support service, will launch in pilot form in the new year and will operate, with the kind permission of HMCTS, from the offices in the public area of the Wellingborough courthouse. Delivered by a range of local charities and coordinated by The Crysalys Foundation working in conjunction with the Youth Offending Service, Police and, where necessary, the legal profession. It will aim to ensure that all young visitors have their broader problems addressed by offering access to a wide range of services for children and young people and their families. This may include;
- help to identify and access local authority, statutory or third sector support services to address the issues which bring children and young people to court;
- introductions to learning and training opportunities to improve employment opportunities;
- practical support with financial issues and accommodation;
- information on the working of the criminal justice system.
Northamptonshire Youth Court Solutions enjoys the enthusiastic support of The Lieutenancy; The Shrievalty; the Magistracy and Senior Judiciary; the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner; the Police; HMCTS; the Centre for Justice Innovation; and many others.
Due to go live on 12th January 2021, Youth Court Solutions, the at-court advice and support service will work broadly to provide a supportive and stable environment for the child or young person and, as a consequence, an enhanced prospect for the child or young person of living a life free from the impact of crime whether as a witness, victim or perpetrator, thereby also creating long-term savings for the whole justice system.
Every child deserves the chance of a happy future.