The strategic litigation team take on legal challenges which they hope will bring about wider changes in law and policy to improve the lives of children and young people, particularly within the criminal justice system but also more broadly.
We challenge public bodies such as central government, local authorities and the police through lobbying, complaints and litigation. We also take challenges in the high court, court of appeal, Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. We also intervene in relevant cases or provide witness statements to support other’s litigation.
The strategic litigation team works alongside our broader campaigns where we use a combination of tools for social change in addition to the litigation. Especially where we believe greater public awareness of the issue is vital in supporting change. This approach has proved very successful in challenging and changing the law.
Our reported cases include:
- R v Grant- Murray and Another  EWCA Crim. 1228 Court of Appeal, case on the competence/training of lawyers representing children in criminal cases and adaptations of trials to enable children to effectively participate.
- R v P and Others  pending before UK Supreme Court about disclosure of childhood criminal records
- R v Jogee  UKSC 6– Interveners in UK Supreme Court on a case that reset the law of joint enterprise
- R (Tigere) v. Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills  EWCA Civ 1216 – interveners in UK Supreme Court as to whether migrant children lawfully resident in UK should have access to student finance;
- JC and RT v Central Criminal Court, Crown Prosecution Service and the BBC  EWHC (1041) – Interveners in High Court and Court of Appeal, on whether anonymity granted to children is lifelong or expires when they turn 18;
- R(OP) v Secretary of State for Justice  EWHC 1944 (Admin) – Intervener in case on issue of Equality of Arms for vulnerable defendants to have the same support in court as victims and witnesses.
- R v Jordan Dixon 2013 EWCA 465 – Court of Appeal on issue of effective participation for a young defendant and judicial responsibility to ensure a young vulnerable defendant understands court proceedings;
- R(HC) v SSHD  EWHC 982 (Admin) –Divisional Court, judicial review of legislation. Court ruled that 17 year olds should be treated as children at police station and have same protection as all other children.
- TP v. WLYC  1 Cr. App R 25 – judicial review of proceedings, establishing domestic standard for the effective participation of children in criminal proceedings;
- R(W) v. Brent Youth Court  WL 63636– High Court, judicial review. Establishing that the youth Court most appropriate venue for a trial of a young person;
- R(S) v. Waltham Forest Youth Court  2 Cr. App. R. 21 – judicial review on ‘equality of arms’ for young defendants. Legislation that excluded young defendants from special measures subsequently amended.
Representation in Criminal Proceedings
We believe that representing Children requires skill and expertise to ensure that young people are engaged and able to participate in court proceedings and at the police station. Our lawyers have expert knowledge of the law relating to children and will explore all available options to ensure that children are not criminalised, when this cannot be avoided we take a child-centred approach to case preparation to maximise the opportunity for children and young people to have a voice in the proceedings.
Aika Stephenson (Legal Director) has been practising in the field of Youth Justice for nearly 17 years and has particular expertise in representing children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and those unable to effectively participate in the court process.
J, a 15 year old boy, started coming into contact with the criminal justice system after he was removed from his family into the care of the local authority. Given this background J found it difficult to engage in a positive way with the local authority professionals. He was provided little stability, living in multiple placements in 1 year. J developed a positive relationship with the JfK lawyer representing him in his criminal proceedings. The lawyer worked with him and psychologists and discovered that he had previously undiagnosed ADHD and Autism Spectrum traits. J expressed to his JfK lawyer his frustration with the local authority professionals involved in removing him from his family and their failure to listen to him with regards to his care. Just for Kids Law provided J with an advocate to assist him with communicating with the local authority. J is now engaging with the local authority in a positive way through his advocate and feels that he can constructively take part in decisions about his care. He has not had any new criminal cases.
We help young people challenge exclusions from school and ensure young people receive support for their special educational needs. This could include providing advice and representation in relation to Education, Health and Care Plans and appeals. We can provide representation at Governors body hearings and independent review panels to families in certain geographic areas.
Community Care law
When young people do no receive adequate support from children’s services, we can work with them to challenge the local authority. We can review the assessments conducted by the local authority to ensure that the young person is receiving the support they are entitled to. This could be help with some where to live; financial support; key worker help; respite and other support the young person may need to achieve their full potential.
The Immigration department is funded by Trust for London to support young people in Redbridge, Barking & Dagenham, Waltham Forest & Newham who are experiencing problems due to their immigration status. The main beneficiaries are children and young people aged 10-21 who require immigration legal support. Other beneficiaries include young people in other areas of London, who we serve by providing strong referral pathways to other organisations. Our Immigration Caseworker helps the young people who access JfKL to have greater understanding of their immigration status and their rights and entitlements. We hope to improve situations, reduce the anxiety and uncertainty for young people around their immigration status through specialist advice and assistance, and help young people to exercise their full legal rights and entitlements through effective legal support.