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Too easy to lock children away

BARNARDO'S shares the concern about the effects of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 on the welfare of vulnerable youngsters (TES, March 7).

As Elaine Williams points out, young people placed in local authority secure accommodation are both highly damaged and damaging. Many will share similar histories, and need intensive support if they are to be helped.

The new powers of courts to use secure accommodation to remand children as young as 12 who are deemed to be "persistent" offenders, but commit non-violent or non-sexual offences, means not only that secure units are under pressure, but that vulnerable young people are increasingly placed in prison department custody, where they are unable to be protected properly.

Only a small percentage of children who offend are charged with serious offences, yet we lock up children in increasing numbers and at an earlier age - more than almost all other European countries.

We would like to see the immediate repeal of parts of the Criminal Justice and Police Act to ensure that no child is kept in secure accommodation other than for their, or others, safety.

Pam Hibbert

Principal policy officer

Sarah Jackson

Media officer

Barnardo's

Barkingside, Ilford

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