Children in care should not be prosecuted for minor offences, a report looking at their over-representation in the criminal justice system says.
The review for the Prison Reform Trust calls on the government to draw up new procedures to protect these children from criminalisation.
Lord Laming’s report says half of children in custody in England and Wales have, at some time, been in care.
The government said the safety and well-being of children was “paramount”.
The report, In Care, Out of Trouble, describes how looked-after children are often prosecuted for challenging behaviour that would normally be dealt with in the family home.
A recently retired magistrate gave examples to the review of young people appearing in court for “kicking doors, squirting shower gel on carpets, or using abusive language to staff”.
She said she “often raised concerns about the way trivial incidents in children’s homes resulted in police call-outs and prosecutions in circumstances where ordinary parents would never resort to criminalising their own children”.
Even though the Crown Prosecution Service and the local authority reassured her that all cases were reviewed according to special protocols designed to weed out minor misdemeanours, the children kept on appearing, she said.
The report says: “This is a national problem which central and local government, and local criminal justice agencies, can and must do more to address.
“Reductions in the rate at which children in care are criminalised will not happen by accident.”
A government spokesman said: “The rules are clear that no child living in a children’s home should be criminalised for behaviour that would not concern the police if it happened in a family home.
“While youth crime is down, we recognise that reoffending rates are too high and that the care and supervision of young offenders in custody is not good enough.”
The spokesman added that a review …read more
Source:: BBC UK