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The government response to Charlie Taylor’s Review of the Youth Justice System

Presented to Parliament by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice by Command of Her Majesty

1. We are determined to improve standards in youth justice so that we not only punish crime but also intervene earlier to prevent crime and reform offenders to stop further crimes being committed – protecting victims and building better lives.

2. Youth offending has fallen sharply - the number of young people entering the criminal justice system for the first time fell by 82% between 2007 and 2015. Equally, the number of children and young people held in custody has declined by 67% over the same time with 900 people under the age of 18 currently in custody in England and Wales.

3. However, once children and young people are in custody the outcomes are not good enough. Levels of violence and self-harm are too great and reoffending rates are unacceptably high, with 69% of those sentenced to custody going on to commit further offences within a year of their release.

4. Of course it is right that young offenders who commit crimes must face the consequences of their actions and that the justice system delivers reparation for victims. Yet those 900 in custody represent some of the most complex and damaged children within society. Broken homes, drug and alcohol misuse, generational joblessness, abusive relationships, childhoods spent in care, mental illness, gang membership and educational failure are common in the backgrounds of many offenders.

5. We are reforming the criminal justice system to improve outcomes, cut crime and make our streets safer. The Prison Safety and Reform White Paper of November 2016 outlined how we intend to improve adult prisons by giving greater powers to governors and boosting the safety, transparency and accountability of regimes.
6. We will apply the same principles to the way the justice system deals with children and young people who break the law – providing discipline, purpose, supervision and someone who cares to help these children build a better life, free from offending.

7. In September 2015, the experienced school head and child behaviour expert Charlie Taylor was commissioned by the government to look at how this country deals overall with children and young people who break the law. The Taylor Review makes a compelling case for change and, as this government response makes clear, we will be implementing his key recommendations by putting education at the heart of youth custody and improving the provision of health care to tackle the factors that increase the risk of offending.

8. An urgent priority is to tackle the high levels of violence. A recent HMIP report found that 46% of boys had, at some point, felt unsafe at their establishment. We will ensure that youth custody is a safe, secure environment in which young people can learn and reform.

9. We will also better prepare children and young people for a life after their sentence with a youth custody apprenticeship scheme being developed, ensuring that all young people are earning or learning on release.