Our Kate Aubrey-Johnson awarded Highly Commended Award in ECPAT UK's Children's Champion Awards

Tuesday 23 March 2021

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Kate is a youth justice specialist barrister at Garden Court Chambers with experience as a criminal defence practitioner, public lawyer and SEND mediator. In November 2020, Kate established Garden Court’s Youth Justice & Child Rights team to ensure our chambers is able to offer a holistic approach to protecting the rights of children in contact with the justice system.

Child victims of trafficking often find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system. It is important that criminal lawyers understand the legal protections available to child victims of trafficking and criminal exploitation. The ethos behind the creation of this multi-disciplinary team is to ensure all barristers representing children are sensitive to their needs and understand how to engage with children who have experienced trauma, abuse and have complex needs. Kate has a unique expertise and brings to her work a compassion and kindness that ensures the children she represents and advocates for are never judged and are at all times treated with respect, so that children feel safe and have their rights protected. An approach that will be embedded within the team. The purpose of the team is to ensure children receive the highest quality legal representation and are represented by barristers who ensure they can fully and effectively participate in proceedings. Kate has been the driving force behind this team which puts children at the centre of the legal process. Kate stands up for an environment that, at its heart, ensures children are heard, respected and supported, so they can actively participate in all legal matters that affect them. 

Garden Court Chambers has been at the forefront of developing protections for child victims of trafficking and criminal exploitation in the criminal courts and Kate is further entrenching this commitment to child victims of trafficking by developing a Youth Justice & Child Rights Team. Kate is the former Director of the Youth Justice Legal Centre where she developed a Guide to Child Criminal Exploitation, a legal resource that has helped ensure criminal practitioners understand the legal protections available to child victims of trafficking. 

Kate is committed to a child-rights approach and her skills as a mediator ensure she listens, empowers and gives children a voice throughout their contact with the justice system. Daily she fights in her practice for the rights of children to be respected. She also works at a sector level and across disciplines to transform legal processes to ensure the rights of children are fully respected and that children are seen as ‘children' rather than ‘offenders’ . She is transforming practice to ensure the best possible outcomes for children. Kate works in partnership with academics, non-governmental organisations and charities. Her approach, she hopes, will also help to address the over criminalisation of looked after children and children from Black, Brown and Racialised groups.

Kate is co-author of the leading textbook 'Youth Justice Law and Practice (LAG, 2019)'. She chairs the Ministry of Justice’s Working Group on Youth Justice Advocacy and is on the Justice Working Group on Disparity in Child Justice and provides guidance to the Judicial College on child sensitive approaches to sentencing. She also sits on HMCTS' Youth Justice Recovery Working Group. Kate is working closely with the Ministry of Justice, Youth Justice Board, Law Society, the Criminal Bar Association and the Inns of Court College of Advocacy to ensure lawyers have the specialist skills and expertise to represent children.

During lockdown Kate drafted a Child Protocol in Criminal Cases during the Covid-19 pandemic, wrote an essay for Justice Matters (published by LAG) highlighting the impact on children in the youth justice system and collaborated with Howard League to draft expert guidance on keeping children out of custody during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is without doubt that Kate Aubrey-Johnson is whole heartedly committed to youth justice and child rights and she has gone above and beyond to provide the highest quality support for trafficked children.

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