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The national protocol on reducing unnecessary criminalisation of looked-after children and care leavers

1.1. This national protocol is aimed at local authority children’s services, local care providers (fostering services, children’s homes and other arrangements), police forces, Youth Offending Teams (YOTs), the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS), local Youth Panel (Magistrates), and local health services including mental health. Its key purpose is to encourage and provide the framework for these agencies to co-develop local arrangements to reduce the unnecessary criminalisation of looked-after children and care leavers.

1.2. Where a child is looked after by the state, we have a responsibility to safeguard and promote their welfare and to act as good corporate parents so they can each reach their full potential. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of The Child includes preventing criminalisation of children and highlights the importance of this in protecting children. This is particularly true for children and young people with additional vulnerabilities such as looked-after children and care leavers. Ultimately the question we must ask is: ‘would this be good enough for my child?’

1.3. Although a criminal justice response will remain appropriate in a small number of cases, this framework is designed to prevent, unnecessarily, criminalising already highly vulnerable children and young people where possible. It sets out best practice for avoiding the criminalisation of looked-after children and care leavers up to the age of 25, and we encourage all areas to implement this as soon as possible.