When a child enters the criminal justice system in the UK, their life chances are significantly damaged. A large body of evidence shows that if a young offender can be “diverted” from the system, there are huge potential benefits for the child, his family, and for the wider community. This is a compelling social and economic argument which has been internationally recognised. The politics do not always follow. Concern arises when a Conservative Home Secretary, jostling for position in a future leadership race, constantly signals her “tough on crime” credentials to a Tory base. A generation of children should not be criminalised to satisfy political promises.
Caroline Baker is a barrister at Red Lion Chambers. Her practice includes representing the most vulnerable, including children charged with serious offences.
Michael Herford is a solicitor and founder of Legal Lifelines.
Sailesh Mehta is a barrister at Red Lion Chambers.
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