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Prosecutions (Children)

Oral Answers to Questions — Solicitor-General – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 2nd April 2009.

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Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen Conservative, Totnes 10:30 am, 2nd April 2009

How many prosecutions there have been of children at or above the age of criminal responsibility in each of the last three years?

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Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office

The hon. Gentleman asks about the number of people who are prosecuted at around the age of criminal responsibility, and I can tell him only who has been prosecuted in the youth court over the years about which he inquires. The CPS prosecuted just over 118,000 young offenders in 2006, 134,000 in 2007 and 119,000 in 2008—those are approximate numbers, but I can give him the chapter and verse if he wants that.

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Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen Conservative, Totnes

The CPS guidance of 2007 was updated in 2009 to instruct police and the prosecutors to refer to the UK Human Trafficking Centre regarding the identification of trafficked children. However, the guidance is not being consistently implemented, and children found in cannabis factories are being prosecuted and sent to prison—a number of cases are outstanding in the courts. Will the Solicitor-General meet a number of the non-governmental organisations that are concerned about this and wish to discuss the fact that the CPS is not following its own guidelines?

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Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office

We do meet the third sector; the inter-ministerial group that looks into trafficking on an ongoing basis itself has a stakeholder group, which is comprised of the very people to whom the hon. Gentleman is referring. I am very willing to meet anyone further about the matter, but he must bear in mind the fact that that guidance is in place and is observed. It is by no means the case that all Vietnamese young people—this is who he is talking about—who are found in cannabis factories are trafficked, so there may always be decisions taken to prosecute such people because those decisions are compatible with the evidence that these are not trafficked people; indeed, they are not necessarily as young as they at first sight appear. Of course I shall meet anyone whom he wishes me to meet, if he is worried about this.

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