Chris Harris for The Times
There is a “strong presumption in favour of diverting children from the criminal justice system”, prosecutors have claimed after a senior judge said that too many young people were being tried in youth courts.
Sir James Munby, president of the family division of the High Court, said that children were caught up in a complex system with different courts for which too many Whitehall departments were responsible.
He called for many criminal cases involving children to be moved from the youth courts to new “problem solving” tribunals.
However, the Crown Prosecution Service said that “a decision to prosecute a youth is only made if there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to do so”.
A spokesman said that the service’s code of practice “directs prosecutors to consider the welfare of the child when looking at whether or not to charge including if diversion would be beneficial.
“There is a strong presumption in favour of diverting children from the criminal justice system.”
The CPS pointed to figures showing that the number of youth prosecutions had fallen by more than 80 per cent in past ten years.
“Factors such as age and maturity, seriousness of the offence, previous offending and mental health are taken into account,” the spokesman said, adding: “CPS prosecutors are also guided by relevant agencies, including healthcare providers, about the best interests of the child.
“In some less serious cases, where the offence has been admitted, the matter can be dealt with through out-of-court-disposals rather than a prosecution. These can be beneficial to offenders and reduce the risk of future offending.”