Safeguarding and the Sentencing Courts

30 MAR 2007

Christine Piper, Brunel University. When sentencing decisions are made in relation to children and young people, welfare considerations are relatively weak against the force of the primary objective of crime prevention. There are some safeguarding requirements, but they are insufficient. Beyond this deficiency, there is no welfare principle or safeguarding duty of which the courts must take heed in relation to children whose welfare is likely to be affected by imprisonment of a parent. In this context, they are legally invisible.

This article considers the difficulties presented by an attempt to balance the need to safeguard children of offenders against the sentencing requirements which operate in relation to the offending parent. While the courts have expressed the view that the offender's role as primary carer for a child should be taken into account, sentences cannot be reduced with any real effect for the child. The author hopes that awareness of the negative impact on children will encourage the courts to impose community sentences where the offending lies on the cusp of a custodial sentence. The issue of safeguarding policy for children in these circumstances is one which must be pushed further up the policy agenda. For the full article see April [2007] Fam Law.

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