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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

November 16, 2004: Sex Offenders Evade Justice, Says Review

Former Chief Inspector of Social Services Sir William Utting’s 1996 report People Like Us was commissioned in response to allegations of widespread abuse in care homes and foster care in Wales. A wide-ranging review of progress made since then has just been published. The review by Marian Stuart and Catherine Baines was overseen by Sir William and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The review indicates that children living away from home are better protected against abuse than in the mid-1990s when a succession of scandals in care homes were exposed. But there has been little or no progress in bringing sex abusers to justice, or in providing adequate help for children who have been sexually abused, and there are concerns for the protection of specially vulnerable groups, including disabled children and children in prison.

The review finds that although legislation, policies and guidance on safeguards have been strengthened in the past seven years – including some provisions in the current Children Bill – there is a continuing gap between policy and practice. Policies are not being consistently implemented in all parts of the country and practitioners in some sectors still lack sufficient understanding of what needs to be done to safeguard children:

  • Examining action to deal with child abuse, the report notes progress in making information available to staff who work with children and families. But much more could be done to raise public awareness of the risks to children and measures to protect them. It also points to gaps in the information available to parents and children so they can recognise abusive behaviour.
  • On security checks for people who work with children, the report warns against over-reliance on police checks. Since only a small proportion of abusers have previous convictions, rigorous checking of other information such as life histories and references is also necessary. Like the Bichard Inquiry after the Soham murders, the review endorses the need for better recording, handling and sharing of so-called ‘soft’ information.
  • There has been no improvement in bringing to justice those who sexually abuse children. This is undermining efforts to prevent potential abusers from working with children. The report calls for research to discover why conviction rates for offences against children are so low, and how they might be increased.
  • Help and treatment for abused children is still inadequate. The review calls for major improvements in the availability of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services so a range of treatment methods are accessible nationwide.
  • Lack of sufficient treatment for sex offenders is a major issue. The report notes a particular shortage of provision for identifying and treating female abusers. It also suggests there has been too little work on the prevention and early identification of abuse by young offenders, and their treatment.

Report co-author Marian Stuart noted:

“The incidence of sexual abuse of children is greater than most people realise, yet the number of convictions remains worryingly low. Experts estimate that fewer than 1 in 50 sexual offences results in a criminal conviction. If this problem continues to go unchecked, there will be an inexorable rise in the numbers of children subjected to sexual abuse, with all the damaging effects that can follow. A radical rethink is essential.”

“We need to put more effort into gathering and analysing information about abusers and the scale of abuse, so that effective prevention, early intervention and treatment can be provided. But we also should be doing more to safeguard children from un-convicted sex offenders, as well as the small minority that have been convicted and registered.”

The review – like the original report – concludes that ‘prison is no place for children’, yet it finds that increasing numbers of children are being imprisoned, despite an overall reduction in youth crime. The growing number of young people being remanded in custody is a particular problem. The report warns that the welfare and protection of children has not been a priority for prisons, and that health and education needs are dealt with inadequately.

According to report co-author Marian Stuart:

“While large numbers of children remain in custody, serious and sustained efforts are needed to improve their conditions and welfare. Steps have been taken to improve regimes and safeguards in recent years, but this remains a particularly worrying area. In addition, despite the fact that about half of all children in custody have previously been in care, there is little evidence of local authorities engaging with children in prison or their families.”

“Our report urges the Home Office to review the use and place of custody for children and young people as a matter of urgency… Children in custodial units should have the same rights and access to education and health care as all other children.”