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    How can you punish a child for something that happened over a year ago?’ The impacts of COVID-19 on child defendants and implication for youth courts

    Larner, Samuel ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8386-3789 and Smithson, Hannah ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4096-0172 (2023) How can you punish a child for something that happened over a year ago?’ The impacts of COVID-19 on child defendants and implication for youth courts. The Journal of Criminal Law. ISSN 0022-0183

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    Abstract

    The project on which this paper is grounded is the first in-depth empirical study of the impacts of COVID-19 on each stage of the English and Welsh Youth Justice System. We take the notion of a child's right to a fair trial as the lens by which we detail the findings from our research. The paper documents the experiences of professionals working in the courts and children who had contact with the courts during the pandemic. While we concentrate on processes in England and Wales as an exemplar of the impact of COVID-19, recognising that globally, courts were experiencing similar challenges, initiates a discourse about how to re-envision their role in wider criminal justice systems in a COVID-19 world. Our research demonstrates an urgent need for renewed consideration of what support children need to effectively participate in court, and where and how children's cases should be heard. The pandemic demonstrated that creativity is possible and creates a timely opportunity to review the evidence and think more radically about a welfare-based, trauma-informed court process for children.

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