SRA launches support for youth court solicitors
1 November 2016
We have launched a specialist support package for solicitors working in youth courts, to help them when representing young people.
Working with organisations such as the charity Just for Kids Law and the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers, the support package brings together expert insights into practising in the youth court, and tips on how to meet children and young people's needs.
More than 60% of young people and children in the criminal justice system have significant speech, language and communication needs. This means there is a significant risk that they will not understand their solicitor, how the court works, or find it difficult to get their message across.
The risks of not communicating effectively were highlighted in the Carlile Inquiry. This included the example of a child who when asked if he "felt remorse", replied "no". After court, he asked his lawyer the meaning of remorse.
The Children's Rights Alliance for England report last month, 'Children speaking out on policing and youth justice', also highlights the problem of children not understanding the legal process or feeling they were not given the opportunity to speak in court even "if a solicitor was not getting it right."
The package of support includes advice to solicitors on what language to use, how they can facilitate better communication and participation between the court and young person, and how they can work with other organisations to help understand and respond to their client's needs.
Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive said: "Our additional help for those working in youth courts reflects that this is a really important part of the justice system, one that comes with its own unique challenges and demands. We want to help solicitors achieve the consistently high standards all children and young people deserve."
Kate Aubrey-Johnson, Director, Youth Justice Legal Centre at Just for Kids Law said: "At Just for Kids Law, we encounter many children and young people who are frightened of and bewildered by the criminal justice process. Often, they do not know what is happening, many times that is because they do not understand the legal language or the processes involved. Lawyers have a key role to play in making sure that young defendants are able to properly participate in criminal cases.
“We have long argued that lawyers doing this work need particular support to ensure that they are competent, so we very much welcome the SRA’s approach and look forward to continuing to work with them.”
We plan to provide more information to help solicitors working in youth courts, including exploring what matters to young people and children in the criminal justice system and what they expect from their solicitor.
The launch of the materials coincides with the move towards solicitors no longer needing to count CPD hours, which has become a requirement for all solicitors from today. Instead they should reflect on their practice and undertake the training they need to stay up to date and competent. The launch of support materials aims to help those practising in the youth court do that.
For more information visit our youth court advocate support pages.