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Representing Looked After Children at the Police Station

Speaker: Laura Janes and Claire Sands
Chambers: Howard League for Penal Reform

Representing Looked After Children at the Police Station
Laura Janes, Claire Sands
Howard League for Penal Reform
and Laura Cooper
Youth Justice Legal Centre

Claire Sands is a Youth justice and children’s rights researcher and policy expert, who previously worked for the Howard League for Penal Reform. Dr Laura Janes is the chair of the Legal Action Group and is also a consultant solicitor for Scott-Moncrieff and Associates Ltd and GT Stewart Solicitors & Advocates where she represents young people in detention. Laura Cooper has been a practising solicitor advocate since 2011. She has experience in both the Youth Court and Crown Court. She joined Just for Kids Law in February 2015 working with the Youth Justice Legal Centre as a youth justice lawyer, running their advice line.

Here these three experts outline how both research and policy can assist the work of criminal lawyers. They outline inequalities, showing how looked-after children are more likely to be convicted or cautioned than other children. Important issues to be aware of when working on cases involving looked-after children are highlighted.

Key words/ topics 

The Howard League for Penal Reform

Police station representation

Looked-after Children

Research and Policy

Criminalisation of children in residential care


Formal criminalisation

Trauma, abuse and other difficulties

Systemic failing in the care system

Risk of exploitation

More about Claire Sands, Dr Laura Janes, and Laura Cooper 

Claire Sands’ remit includes the programme to end the criminalisation of children in residential care which won the CYP Now Youth Justice Award in 2018. Claire worked as a freelance researcher for a number of years prior to her current role. Her publications include: ‘Child Criminal Exploitation: county lines gangs, child trafficking & modern slavery defences for children’ (Youth Justice Legal Centre, 2018); ‘The fostering system in England: Evidence review’ (Department for Education, 2017); and ‘Growing Up, Moving On. The international treatment of childhood criminal records’ (Standing Committee for Youth Justice, 2016). Claire is a tutor on the Child Studies MA at King’s College London. She is also a qualified solicitor and practised for a number of years at a central London law firm.

Dr Laura Janes is a solicitor at GT Steward Solictors with higher rights in the civil courts. Laura has developed an expertise in advising and representing children and young people in penal detention in relation to prison law, public law and criminal appeal matters. She was named lawyer to watch by the Guardian in 2012. Laura represents the Howard League for Penal Reform on the executive committee of the Association of Prison Lawyers. She has a professional doctorate in Youth Justice. She is also Chair of Legal Action Group.

Laura Cooper oversees the YJLC national advice line for lawyers, youth offending teams, families, children, and other professionals which provides accurate expert knowledge on youth justice law and practice. Laura regularly presents at events on youth justice issues, feeds into the broader youth justice policy work of the charity, and writes legal updates and best practice legal guides for the YJLC website. Laura previously worked for a criminal defence firm in London where she focused on representing children. She has volunteered for Reprieve in Houston, Texas, and at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.