News, Events and Information

News on legislation and policy, NAYJ conferences and training events and youth justice news.

End Child Imprisonment Campaign

Locking up a child is one of the most profound actions a state can take; once a child has been deprived of their liberty, the state has a duty under domestic law and international conventions to ensure that they receive the most appropriate care and support. Currently, in England and Wales over 90% of children in custody are held in establishments that the Government’s own inspectors find to be unsafe. It cannot be right that children, many of whom will already have experienced neglect and abuse, are kept in places where the levels of violence and self harm are high and rising, where their education is frequently disrupted and where they can be deliberately hurt as a response to challenging behaviour.

The NAYJ has long advocated that fewer children should be locked up, and that decisions to lock up a child should only be taken where there is a serious risk of harm. The small number of children who need to be detained should be accommodated in small, local establishments and cared for by suitably qualified and experienced staff. We are pleased to be part of the End Child Imprisonment coalition which on Thursday will publish a document which will show clearly why the current system is not fit for purpose. The document will outline why deprivation of liberty should be the last resort for children, why it is so harmful to their healthy development and does not serve to protect society. It will go on to describe the principles that should underpin decisions to lock up children, and those that should be in place in any establishment where children are placed.

The call to radically change the current provision is long overdue and one that the NAYJ wholeheartedly supports.

NAYJ, AGM and Seminar, Tuesday 14th May 2019 (London)

Date for your diary

‘Youth Justice in context’

14th May 2019

Kindly hosted by

Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors
180 North Gower Street, London NW1 2NB

To include:
12 noon – 1.30 pm AGM of the National Association for Youth Justice.

2 pm – 4.30pm Annual Seminar with guest speakers.
-Nicky Hill – Interim CEO of Street Doctors and Criminal Justice & Youth Violence Reduction Consultant.
-Dr. Jenny Lloyd – Research Fellow, University of Bedfordshire.
-Dez Holmes – Director of Research in Practice.

This event is free to NAYJ members; non-members may reserve a place at the seminar at a cost of £60 to include a drinks reception following the Seminar at 5.00pm.

See for membership details or contact NAYJ Secretary on

Bookings can be made through Eventbrite at

County lines cases: the state’s duties towards young defendants who may be victims of trafficking

Guidance from the Home Office states that children as young as 12 are being trafficked by criminal gangs to transport and distribute illegal drugs within the UK. Targeted children commonly come from unstable backgrounds; with histories of abuse, unavoidable gang ties, and mental health presentations.

The UK has domestic and international duties to protect such children from being trafficked. These duties come from different sources, including the: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Palermo Protocol, Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, European Convention on Human Rights, the EU Directive 2011/36, and the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

County lines cases

But the UK is still failing to effectively fulfil its duties. In 2017 alone, 65% of forces reported child exploitation in county lines drugs cases. ‘County lines’ refers to the supply of illegal drugs from urban to suburban and coastal areas using mobile phone lines.

Children are targeted by these networks because they help their operations to run more effectively and profitably: children are less likely to be known to, or even suspected by, the police; they are less demanding; and they face more lenient criminal sentences than adults.

These gangs use children to transport and distribute drugs. They lure and control children by grooming them using gifts and false impressions of guardianship and protection. Violence is also common. They then arrange their accommodation and travel to and from places.

Child trafficking

Section 2 (1) of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 contains the offence of human trafficking: arranging or facilitating another person’s travel with a view to that person being exploited. Section 2 (5) states that travel includes ‘travelling within any country’. Children whose travel is being arranged or facilitated within the UK with a view to that child being exploited in county lines cases is therefore covered by the Act.

On 17 January 2018, at a Westminster Hall debate on the issue of child exploitation in county lines cases, Sarah Newton MP pledged that the UK must prioritise the welfare of children caught up in these gangs. In practice, however, children caught by the police are often charged with drugs-related offences and prosecuted. They tend to be treated as criminals, responsible for associating with gangs.

This violates the ‘non-punishment principle’, which is enshrined in, and effected by, the aforementioned laws. It demands that victims of trafficking should not be criminalised for offences committed as a direct result of their being trafficked.

Duties of the police, CPS and defence lawyers to protect child victims

To meet its legal obligations, the UK must ensure that its police forces and criminal courts are adequately trained to identify trafficking indicators and put this into practice. The UK has displayed this commitment in the context of child sexual exploitation, which it recognises as a form of abuse.

Proper training is just as crucial for preventing the criminal exploitation of children, as in these cases, indicators are also difficult to spot. Trafficked children are likely to be traumatised or too scared to reveal any abuse. Some may not even know they are being trafficked: the golden rule, said a child in a BBC documentary, is ‘loyal love’: love for the people who brought you into this game.

In general, indicators might include: missing episodes and frequent school absences, unexplained possessions or money, excessive phone communications, injuries, possession of weapons, and self-harm.

The police need to make relevant enquiries if such indicators are present, and refer potentially trafficked children to the National Referral Mechanism. The NRM was introduced in 2009 as a mechanism by which to identify potential trafficking victims. The process following a referral by the police or other first responder is two-fold: firstly, a reasonable grounds decision will be made as to whether the child is a potential trafficking victim; secondly, a conclusive decision will be made on whether it is more likely than not that the child is in fact a victim of trafficking.

This process should start before any child is charged: children should not be penalised if their involvement in drug supply networks is linked to their being trafficked for the purposes of exploitation. But often, charging decisions precede any consideration about whether the child is a victim of trafficking.

Hence why, criminal defence lawyers must take all reasonable steps to identify potential trafficking victims and be persistent and pro-active in causing enquiries to be made at the earliest stage of the case. This duty was emphasised by the Court of Appeal in R v O [2008] EWCA Crim 2835 and L, HVN, THN and T v R [2013] EWCA Crim 991.

If a trial proceeds despite trafficking concerns, Section 45 (4) of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 provides a statutory defence if the child: commits the offence as a direct consequence of being or having been a victim of slavery or relevant exploitation, and a reasonable person in the same situation and having the person’s relevant characteristics would have committed the offence (note, Schedule 4 contains a list of excluded offences). In R v VSJ and Others (Anti-Slavery International Intervening) [2017] EWCA Crim 36, the Court held: ‘Once it is established that a child is a victim of trafficking for the purposes of exploitation, the relevant consideration is whether there is a sufficient nexus between the trafficking for the purposes of exploitation and the offence; it is not necessary to [establish] compulsion’.

When finally at the mercy of state, children who may have been trafficked must have their rights and protections as potential victims observed. Police forces need to look out for any trafficking indicators and refer suspected child victims to the NRM. In the face of trafficking indicators, the CPS needs to make relevant enquiries to establish whether encountered children have been trafficked, instead of continuing to prosecute them. Otherwise, the current legal safeguards serve no meaningful purpose, and the child trafficking scandal will become more widespread and sophisticated.

Child custody: an inappropriate measure for vulnerable children from disadvantaged backgrounds By Annahita Moradi

AB, a 16-year old boy, had a traumatic childhood. It consisted of him being physically and emotionally abused. He watched his father beat his mother and take an overdose; and his uncle die from an overdose. He was diagnosed with ADHD, Conduct Disorder, and PTSD. Let down by all those around him, he was in and out of care since he was a baby.

AB eventually ended up in prison, where, despite his pre-existing mental health diagnoses and extreme vulnerabilities, he endured over 100 days in segregation. Sometimes, he was locked in his cell for over 22 hours a day.

On 04 July 2017, the High Court declared his isolation as unlawful and in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (AB v SSJ [2017] EWHC 1694 (Admin)). This was the result of the Howard League for Penal Reform’s legal challenge to Feltham YOI’s decision to isolate AB, and relentless campaigns against the use of segregation against children in custody.

Around the same time, the Sentencing Council published its new guidance on the application of sentencing principles and specific guidelines in cases involving youth defendants being sentenced from 01 June 2017.

The guidance emphasises that the primary purpose of the youth justice system is to prevent re-offending rather than to punish children, and it reiterates that custody is a last resort measure. The guidance also codifies the courts’ scope to consider child defendants’ socio-economic and familial backgrounds as mitigating factors.

Although this is just a guidance, Section 125 (1)(a) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 states that every court must follow the relevant sentencing guidelines. When sentencing youths therefore, the court must have regard to the new guidance.

The starting point for the court when sentencing is the seriousness of the offence (Paragraph 1.2). However, the guidance requires for the sentencing process to be child-focused. In other words, regard should be had to the child’s welfare, the likely effect of the sentence on the child, and the factors that may have contributed to the child’s offending behaviour.

Such factors include the child’s mental health issues, learning difficulties, susceptibility to self-harm and/or suicidal ideations, and immaturity (Paragraph 1.5). The courts should also consider the child’s background; including any exposure to abuse or neglect, offending by other family members, drugs and alcohol, discrimination, and negative experiences of authority (Paragraph 1.13). The child’s low education attainment can also be considered, as can their parents’ poor employment records. This recognises that children living in areas of acute social and economic deprivation in dangerous or negligent conditions are more susceptible to offending.

The guidance urges courts to always try to ensure that they can identify and respond to such factors. This is because the welfare of the child is paramount in sentencing proceedings, and it is the role of the sentencing judge to impose a sentence that will help the child to not re-offend. Courts must not lose sight of this principal aim, because punishment is not the primary purpose of youth sentencing.

In fact, the guidance emphasises that it is important to avoid criminalising children (Paragraph 1.4). This is not least because a criminal record will deprive the child, who might already be disadvantaged, of the opportunity to move on from crime towards education and employment (Paragraph 1.6).

If regard is had to these factors, then custody, in most cases, simply cannot be the answer to preventing re-offending and protecting the welfare of the child. In fact, custody can have the reverse effect. It can lead to the early manifestation of mental health conditions or exacerbate pre-existing ones. It can deprive the child of its domestic and international rights to education, development and adequate healthcare. It can expose the child to further trauma, abuse, and gang culture. All of which will set the child up to fail, in a never-ending cycle of offending, being arrested, sentenced, imprisoned, and released.

As Ken Clarke, the then Justice Secretary, put it on 13 July 2010: ‘There is and never has been […] any direct correlation between spiralling growth in the prison population and a fall in crime.’

AGM and Seminar 2018 – Tuesday 15 May 2018 – Youth justice: future directions

NAYJ is delighted to welcome excellent speakers to this event:

-Louise Haigh MP, Shadow Minister for Policing, will join us as one of the speakers at our annual seminar.
-Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division at the Royal Courts of Justice
-Anna Christina Jones, Greater Manchester Youth Justice University Partnership
-Joanne Cecil, Garden Court Chambers

We are grateful to Garden Court Chambers for hosting this important event. The AGM (members only) starts at 12 noon. The seminar will run from 2pm to 5pm, followed by a drinks reception. Places are free to NAYJ members and there will be places available to non-members at a cost of £40 per person.

As in previous years, we are pleased to confirm that the event will be FREE for members, with excellent speakers relevant to your field of work.

NAYJ Seminar Only Agenda 2018
Application form
Notice of Motion form
Trustee application form

‘Child Friendly Youth Justice?’ Event, Cambridge 25th September 2017



AGM and Seminar 2017: The State of Youth Custody

In this section, please find information relating to our 2017 AGM, to be held on 10th May at Doughty Street Chambers, London.

NAYJ is delighted that John Drew, former Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board, will join us as one of the speakers at our annual seminar*. We are also grateful to Doughty Street Chambers for hosting this important event. The AGM (members only) starts at 1pm. The seminar will run from 2pm to 5pm, followed by a drinks reception. Places are free to NAYJ members and there will be limited number of places available to non-members at a cost of £60 per person, to register your interest please e mail

*Please note, that due to the pre-general election period (purdah), Charlie Taylor is no longer able to speak at this event. We are instead delighted to welcome John Drew, former Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board.

As in previous years, we are pleased to confirm that the event will be FREE for members, with excellent speakers relevant to your field of work.

• John Drew (Chair, Youth Justice Board)
• Heidi Hales Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, based at HMYOI Cookham Wood)
• Carolyne Willow (Director, Article 39) and Thirza Smith (Manager, Clayfields House)
• Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC (Doughty Street Chambers)

AGM Start time: 1pm
Seminar start time: 2pm
Event close: 5pm
Drinks reception: from 5pm

Below are documents for you to download, complete and send to us here at

Application form (members)
Application form (non-members)
Notice of motion form
Trustee application form

Announcement of New Chair

The Trustee Board of the National Association for Youth Justice is delighted to announce that Ross Little, who has served as our Deputy Chair for the past year, will take over as Chair of the charity following the retirement of Pam Hibbert OBE. For more information click here.



When: Wednesday 17th May 2016

Where: 54 Doughty Street, Doughty Street Chambers, London WC1N 2LS.

There’s a great line up of speakers, including Charlie Taylor, who is undertaking the current review of youth justice on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.

We look forward to see you there!

Event: The costs of youth justice

When: Wednesday 14th October, 9.30-4.30pm

Where: The John Foster Building, 80-98 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, L3 5UZ

We look forward to see you there!