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Overlooked and Overrepresented: Gypsy, Traveller and Roma children in the youth justice system

An analysis of 12-18-year-olds’ Gypsy, Traveller and Roma perceptions of their experiences in Secure Training Centres and Young Offender Institutions

This is an analysis of the Children in Custody 2015–16, HM Inspectorate of Prisons data published on the 15 November 2016. The data for the Children in Custody report derives from surveys conducted at all Secure Training Centres (STCs) and Young Offender Institutions (YOIs) between 1 April 2015 and 12 April 2016; the response rate was 85% and 86% respectively. Separate questionnaires are used at STCs and YOIs as they are tailored to support the different inspection criteria used for each setting.

In the 2015 Children in Custody report, the then HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick said in his foreword:

“Both STCs and YOIs continued to hold a hugely disproportionate number of children who described themselves as being from a Traveller or Gypsy background…. a hundred times greater than the 0.1% which is the estimated proportion in the population as a whole.

We have repeatedly raised our concerns about this issue – with any other group such huge disproportionality would have led to more formal inquiry and investigation into what part of their backgrounds or interaction with the criminal justice system had led to this situation. Children from a Traveller background reported greater levels of need and worse experiences in custody than other children”.

Sadly, Nick Hardwick’s words are as true today as they were a year ago, with Gypsy, Traveller and Roma (GTR) children remaining “hugely overrepresented in the youth justice system”.

After Mr Hardwick’s intervention, organisations in the GTR sector were hopeful that the overrepresentation in youth justice would finally become a priority to be addressed. However, almost no progress has made in addressing the experiences of GTR children in custody, nor has there been any moves toward a formal investigation as to why the numbers remain so high.

In fact, compared to 2015, there was significantly less analysis of the experiences of GTR children in the 2016 Children in Custody report.

To counter the lack of profile given to GTR children in STCs and YOIs, the Traveller Movement has analysed the raw data and highlighted the key issues facing these children.