Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE QC who chaired the Independent Parliamentarians’ Inquiry into the Operation and Effectiveness of the Youth Court which has published its report, believes that any and all political parties could adopt the recommendations made as part of their policies for law reform in the Parliament that will start in mid - 2015.
Some of the recommendations would affect legal representatives. For example it is recommended that that a requirement is introduced that all children are represented by a youth specialist lawyer at the police station. This should be introduced and monitored by CiLEX and the SRA.
It is also recommended that the BSB, SRA and CiLEX introduce, without delay, a requirement for all legal practitioners representing children at the police station and practising in the youth proceedings be accredited to do so. For new entrants into youth proceedings, this would comprise an initial spell of a minimum of ten hours continuing professional development (CPD) accredited youth training as well as annual refresher training in the field of, it is suggested,two hours’ CPD. Young people would be involved in such training to describe their court experiences and explain effective engagement strategies. The training would include, youth court law and related provision, the needs of child defendants (including mental health issues, speech, language and communication needs, welfare issues and child development); how to manage learning and communication difficulties, mental health problems and vulnerability, and fitness to plead to ensure effective participation in proceedings by the child; and the impact of interventions which should include visits to youth custodial institutions.
It is also recommended that Magistrates and District Judges should have their youth training augmented by further training through the Judicial College and that a senior judge be appointed to be the youth court representative at a national level.
There are recommendations on diversion and welfare. Greater powers for the courts to require an explanation from a senior prosecutor where it does not appear to be in the interests of justice for a young person to be before the Youth Court. Greater emphasis on the requirement for a young person to be assisted by an Appropriate Adult and for social services to report to the court where welfare issues have been highlighted during the course of the prosecution.