New practical guide for lawyers to help reduce the over-criminalisation of care experienced children and young adults launches today

Wednesday 13 September 2023

Dare to Care: Representing care experienced young peoplewritten by Kate Aubrey-Johnson of the Garden Court Chambers Children's Rights Team, and Dr Laura Janes, consultant solicitor at GT Stewart, in collaboration with the policy forum at the Drive Forward Foundation, is published today by the Youth Justice Legal Centre.

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A group of leading charities, lawyers and care experienced children and young adults have worked together to produce a new guide for lawyers.

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.

It does not have to be this way.  Law and policy affecting care experienced children and young adults can be used to achieve fairer outcomes.

The guide, to be launched today at an event in Parliament hosted by the shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry MP, will help lawyers prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of looked-after children and care leavers.

The guide was co-produced with care experienced young people who are part of the Policy Forum at the Drive Forward Foundation and was developed following a webinar hosted by Garden Court Chambers in 2021, 'How to Better Support Care Experience People in the Criminal Justice System'. The guide provides powerful testimony from children and young adults with lived experience, alongside the key legal framework and practical tips for lawyers.

The guide is free to access online here.  

Laura Cooper, Director of YJLC, which has published Dare to Care as part of its seminal series of youth justice guides 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 Trustee of the Drive Forward Foundation, said: 

“To complement this vitally important guide, the Policy Forum is calling for the 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.” 

Laurie Hunte, T2A Campaign Manager, said:

“For far too long, children and young adults with care experience have been vastly overrepresented in the criminal justice system. That’s why T2A and the Barrow Cadbury Trust are proud to support the publication of this much-needed guide for defence lawyers. Its ultimate aim is to ensure that every child and young adult is treated fairly and that their care experiences are considered and taken into account by criminal justice professionals. We have no doubt that this guide will play a crucial role in reducing the over-criminalisation of children and young adults with care experience."

Kate Aubrey-Johnson, Director of CRYJ and barrister at Garden Court Chambers, 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. We are delighted to have worked with the Policy Forum at the Drive Forward Foundation. They are the most impressive group of young people who have, for the first time, explained to lawyers how to represent care experienced young people. 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.”

Notes to editors

  1. Dare to Care: Representing care experienced young people 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.  
  2. Drive Forward Foundation supports care experienced young people into sustainable and fulfilling employment. The Policy Forum was founded by Jordan Morgan to promote legislative and policy change in the care system. Its members, who have lived experience of being needlessly criminalised, campaign on a number of issues, including mental health provision and education.   The forum worked with MOPAC to secure the creation of a London-wide protocol to reduce the criminalisation of looked-after children and care leavers published in  2021 and is available to download here. The Forum also worked with MOPAC to develop a training video to complement the protocol which is available here.  
  3. The publication is supported by Child Rights & Youth Justice, Garden Court Chambers and T2A:
  • Child Rights & Youth Justice (CRYJ) works to ensure children’s rights are fully understood and protected in the youth justice system, and that children are represented by child specialist criminal lawyers.
  • Garden Court Garden Court Chambers is a number one ranked barristers’ chambers committed to fighting injustice, defending human rights and upholding the rule of law. 
  • T2A is a broad coalition of organisations, which evidences and promotes the need for a distinct approach to young adults (18–25 year olds) throughout the criminal justice process. Building on the work of the 2005 Commission on Young Adults and the Criminal Justice System, the T2A Alliance was convened by the Barrow Cadbury Trust (charity number 1115476). T2A produces research and policy reports, and has worked with academics, professional bodies, policymakers and service users to make the case for change: 

4.   For press inquiries and to arrange interviews with care experienced young people contact:

      Juno Schwarz, Director of Fundraising, Policy & Communications, Drive Forward Foundation
      Office: 0207 620 3000
      Mobile: 07584 664 366

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