Council backs protocol to reduce youth criminalisation

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Milton Keynes Council has given its support to two agreements that will ensure children in care are treated fairly if they find themselves subject to the youth justice system.

The announcement came at last night’s Cabinet meeting during which Councillor Zoe Nolan shared details of the Thames Valley Protocol and the Concordat on Detention in Police Custody.

The protocol promotes a consistent and fair approach to the way children in care are treated by the youth justice system across the South East.

Originally published in 2014, the document has been reviewed by Thames Valley Police in conjunction with children’s social care services and Youth Offending Teams across the region.

Research has shown that over half of those under 18 held in custody have been in care at some point in their lives.

These often vulnerable and troubled children are more likely to be reported to the police by foster carers or staff in residential units for incidents or behaviour that would not attract police involvement if they were living at home.

In addition to the Protocol, Councillor Nolan also announced that MK Council will be signing the national Concordat on Detention in Police Custody.

Produced by the Home Office, all local authorities and police services have been asked to sign the Concordat committing them to avoiding the need for children to be detained in police stations following charge wherever possible.

The legislation states that unless there is a significant and immediate risk of harm or re-offending the police must transfer the child to the care of the local authority until they can be brought before a court.

Councillor Nolan said: “For a number of years concern have been growing about the unnecessary criminalisation of children in care who are significantly over represented in the youth justice system relative to their non-looked after peers.

“While we have relatively small numbers of looked after children who are subject to the youth justice system here in MK, we are not complacent.

“It is right that we co-operate with the police in fulfilling our legal obligations when required whilst ensuring that our young people are prepared and treated fairly if they do find themselves in trouble.”

Milton Keynes care leaver Jack Smith, 21, said: “Anything that supports children and young people in care to lead a positive life is great news for MK. Young people in care are more vulnerable so it is vital that they are given the support they need to get back on track.”