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Youth in the Criminal Justice System

Speaker: Caroline Liggins
Chambers: Hodge Jones & Allen

Caroline Liggins is a Partner in the Criminal Defence team and Head of the Youth Team at Hodge, Jones and Allen Solicitors. She has vast experience in representing youths from initial Police Station interview through to Youth and Crown Courts and the Court of Appeal. Caroline understands the importance of building a relationship of trust and the need for continuity when representing vulnerable and young clients.

In this presentation, Caroline explains how young people can become involved in gang crime, and how lawyers can spot signs that their clients may be victims of exploitation. She goes on to outline the defence under s.45 of The Modern Slavery Act, showing how clients can be proven to be victims rather than suspects. Practical considerations and important safeguarding measures are highlighted.

Key words/topics

Child Criminal Exploitation

The Modern Slavery Act 2015


National Referral Mechanism

County Lines

Child Trafficking

The Palermo Protocol





Debit Bondage 

Targeting of Vulnerable Children

Victim not suspect

Looked after children 

Child sexual exploitation

Duties of a lawyer

“Look out for alerts”

Reasonable Grounds

Conclusive Grounds

Evidence gathering

Evidence of vulnerability

Youth Court

Crown Court

More about Caroline Liggins:

Caroline qualified in 2009 as a non-practising Barrister and cross qualified as a solicitor in 2012. In addition to her expertise in representing youths, she has a particular interest in clients with mental health conditions; she works with a wide range of other professionals in order to ensure that her clients are empowered to effectively participate in their defence and navigate their way through the criminal justice system as simply as possible.

Caroline is an experienced trial advocate in the Youth Court and has defended young clients charged with GBH, rape and armed robbery. She has built a substantial client following and has been described by her peers as pragmatic, hardworking and attentive; demonstrating maturity beyond her years.

Caroline is seen as a leader in her field. She conducts and is regularly instructed in Crown Court cases involving allegations of serious crime. She has acted in cases concerning sexual offences, murder, assault, fraud, the possession or use of firearms and the possession of drugs. She liaises closely with expert witnesses and counsel, allowing her to carefully prepare a case and defend it aggressively, resolving matters swiftly and effectively. In the course of her career Caroline’s expertise has seen her regularly called upon to represent high profile individuals including bankers, sports and media personalities.

Caroline was asked to speak to the House of Commons, as a part of the Justice Select committee opposing the introduction of Knife Crime Prevention Orders and she currently sits on the committee for Youth Justice Specialist Panel and enhanced fees and Quality of Advocacy working group with the Ministry of Justice. She is often asked to talk at conferences on aspects of Youth Justice. She also provided the impetus for the formation of the Youth Practitioner’s Association (YPA) which aspires to promote and ensure proper representation for young people within the criminal justice system.