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This year the Ministry of Justice is conducting a review into sentencing and rehabilitation.At the moment the system isn’t working as we would all like it to, to prevent crime and create safer communities, so there is an opportunity to make it much more effective

Barnardo’s will be campaigning to make sure that any interventions made by authorities are effective at stopping offending behaviour and prevent very young children in trouble being drawn into, and damaged by, the criminal justice system.


The campaign has begun with a call for the Government to consider raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 for all but the most serious crimes; murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, rape and aggravated sexual assault.

The current youth justice system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland takes the wrong approach for 10 and 11-year-olds who commit less serious offences. Our
response has to be directed at the parents and sometimes the wider family, because early criminality so often flows from inadequate parenting, and a lack of discipline and boundaries in a child’s life, which allow mischief to grow into much more troubling behaviour.

Challenging interventions that involve the whole family are more effective in cutting crime. Whole family approaches such as family intervention projects (FIPs) challenge and support parents and their children to face up to their behaviour and accept responsibility for their actions. And for those families who do not co-operate there are robust civil orders available – either parenting or child safety orders – that require compliance.

This month’s evaluation of FIPs shows that during the last fiscal year 79% (678 families) were successful.

Barnardo’s runs more than 40 services supporting children and families on the edge of the criminal justice system - in particular, 11 family intervention projects. We know from our experience that engaging these families turns their lives around.

A mother who had support from our Sungate project wrote to children’s minister Tim Loughton: ‘I just used to sit and cry and the boys had to look after themselves. We had no ground rules, we were like lodgers living in the same house.  We were taught about different ways of disciplining children, actions and consequences, how to talk to and not at them. I completed the 10 week course and my life and that of my children changed 100 per cent. We now work together on problems, we talk instead of shouting, the children know what is acceptable and the consequences of doing things they know are wrong’.

Investment now will save money spent in court and police time in the long run. For example, James is a 16-year-old who is serving his second custodial sentence. The cost to the state of James’s offending has been £154,000, including repeat court appearances and custody. But the costs of interventions to tackle his behaviour would have been just £42,000 over the same period and could have avoided some or all of his offending.

Our proposals are strong alternative. We are not arguing that children at 10 do not know the difference between right and wrong. But we are insisting that family based approaches are much more likely to be effective than the conviction of the child on his or her own.

If we have a more effective way of tackling youth crime – why wouldn’t we use it? We are asking people to use the opportunity afforded by the MoJ review to encourage Ken Clarke to consider the potential of this. Join in, tell him what you think about how to reduce reoffending by visiting

Written by Enver Soloman
Monday, 20 September 2010 10:10

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