The Solicitors Regulation Authority has drawn up a support package for practitioners working in the youth courts, announcing further work in the pipeline.
The regulator says 60% of young people and children in the criminal justice system have significant speech, language and communication needs, representing a significant risk that they will not understand their solicitor, how the court works, or find it difficult to get their message across.
SRA chief executive Paul Philip said: ‘Our additional help for those working in youth courts reflects that this is a really important part of the justice system, one that comes with its own unique challenges and demands.
‘We want to help solicitors achieve the consistently high standards all children and young people deserve.’
The regulator worked with charity Just for Kids Law and the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers.
The support package includes advice to solicitors on what language to use, how they can facilitate better communication and participation between the court and the young person, and how they can work with other organisations to help understand and respond to clients’ needs.
The regulator also announced that it plans to provide further information to help solicitors in youth courts, ‘including exploring what matters to young people and children in the criminal justice system and what they expect from their solicitor’.
With solicitors no longer needing to count CPD hours from today, the regulator said the latest material will help those practising in the youth court to meet new ‘continuing competence’ requirements.
A Law Society spokesperson said: ‘Clients in youth courts are particularly vulnerable so effective communication and engagement between the client and their advocate is key. That’s why the Law Society developed interactive training for solicitors in conjunction with Youth Justice Legal Centre and Just for Kids Law. The SRA toolkit complements this training.’