Letter: Unfair to the unconvicted

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The Independent Online
Sir: The past weeks have seen many misleading and dangerous statements about juvenile crime. However, few have been as depressing as the contention of the Secretary of the Outer London branch of the Justices' Clerks' Society (Letters, 4 March) that juveniles given bail 'receive no incentive to change their ways'.

As Mr Lydiate must know, the vast majority of those given bail have not yet been convicted of any offence. No one, least of all a justices' clerk, is entitled to assume that these defendants' ways need changing. Only when guilt is proved does the law have the right to intervene.

In the few cases where juveniles are committing dozens of offences (and most of the reported stories fall apart under close examination), the public needs to be protected. In some cases, that may require a remand into the existing secure children's homes.

However, there is an overwhelming need to improve the efficiency of court practices, for which justices' clerks hold the primary responsibility. Possibly the most effective way of interrupting the flow of offences is by speeding the time between first appearance and acquittal or conviction, at which point the law becomes entitled to intervene.

Yours sincerely,


Deputy Director

Prison Reform Trust

London, N1