Greg Stewart was a signatory to a letter printed in today’s Times newspaper following the sentencing of a 17-year-old boy to ten years’ imprisonment by video link.
VIDEO-LINK JUSTICE Sir, Recently a 17-year-old boy was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment by video link, without consultation with his youth offending team officer. The boy will have been alone (save for a prison officer) in a small room at the prison when he heard his sentence. The evidence shows that children struggle to understand and to participate effectively in a physical court. Research by the Standing Committee on Youth Justice, published today, shows that this is exacerbated when they are hundreds of miles from the actual court and are separated from their lawyer and carer by a video screen. It raises concerns that video links make it harder for children to comprehend the seriousness of their crimes, and may prejudice outcomes.
Despite this, the government is pressing ahead with proposals to increase the use of video links as part of the digital court reform programme. We urge the government to halt the expansion of justice by video link for child defendants until we know its effects. Until then, we argue for a firm presumption against the use of video links for child defendants, except in the most exceptional circumstances.
Gess Aird, Director, Kinetic Youth; Dr Raymond Arthur, Head of Subject (Law), Northumbria School of Law; Bob Ashford, Founder, WipetheSlateClean; Dr Tim Bateman, Reader in Youth Justice, University of Bedfordshire; Jonathan Black, Partner, BSB Solicitors; Anthony Book, Treasurer, Standing Committee for Youth Justice; Professor Mary Bosworth, Director, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford; Phil Bowen, Director, Centre for Justice Innovation; Kate Bulman, Registered Nurse; Professor Steve Case, Loughborough University; Joanne Cecil, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers; Dave Clarke, Chair, Secure Accommodation Network (SAN); Peter Dawson, Director, Prison Reform Trust; Anne-Marie Day, University of Wolverhampton; Anne-Marie Douglas, CEO, Peer Power; John Drew, Chair, Criminal Justice Alliance; Caroline Dyer, Chair, YOT Managers Cymru; Kathy Evans, CEO, Children England; Natasha Finlayson, CEO, Become; Rhona Friedman, Solicitor, Commons Law; Kamini Gadhok, CEO, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists; Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe, Director, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge; Penelope Gibbs, Director, Transform Justice; Professor Barry Goldson, Charles Booth Chair of Social Science, University of Liverpool; Pippa Goodfellow, Senior Lecturer in Youth Justice, Nottingham Trent University; Dr Faith Gordon, Director, Youth Justice Network, and Lecturer in Criminology, University of Westminster; Dr Di Hart, Children’s Services Consultant; Tom Hawker-Dawson, Bye-Fellow in Law, Downing College, University of Cambridge; Chris Henley QC, Vice Chair, Criminal Bar Association; Professor Kathryn Hollingsworth, Newcastle Law School; Professor Mike Hough, Birkbeck, University of London; Professor Carolyn Hoyle, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford; Dr Jessica Jacobson, Director, Institute for Criminal Policy Research; Peter Jones, Director of Social Justice and Rehabilitation, Catch22; Lorraine Khan, Associate Director for Children and Young People, Centre for Mental Health; Louise King, Director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England; Dr Caroline Lanskey, Lecturer in Applied Criminology, University of Cambridge; Caroline Liggins, Solicitor, Hodge Jones & Allen LLP; Ross Little, Chair, National Association for Youth Justice (NAYJ); Yvonne MacNamara, CEO, The Traveller Movement; Richard Mold, Director, Devon Young People’s Trust; Mary O’Shaugnessy, Consultant; Professor Nicola Padfield, Professor of Criminal and Penal Justice, University of Cambridge; Greg Powell, President, London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association; Joe Russo, CEO, The Enthusiasm Trust; Professor Hannah Smithson, Professor of Criminology and Youth Justice, Manchester Metropolitan University; Enver Solomon, CEO, Just for Kids Law; Martha Spurrier, Director, Liberty; Christopher Stacey, Co-Director, Unlock; Gary Stephenson, CEO, Restorative Solutions; Greg Stewart, Director, GT Stewart Solicitors & Advocates; Jacob Tas, CEO, Nacro; John Tenconi, Chair, Michael Sieff Foundation; Lesley Tregear, Chair, Association of YOT Managers; George Turner, CEO, Carney’s Community; Alexandra Wigzell, Chair, Standing Committee for Youth Justice; Stuart Wild, Criminal Department Head, Bird & Co Solicitors