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What do we know about girls in the care and criminal justice systems?

Claire Fitzpatrick (The Law School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)

Safer Communities

ISSN: 1757-8043

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




The purpose of this paper is to highlight the neglect of girls in care who come into conflict with the law, arguing that a gender-neutral approach in this area risks further marginalising an already vulnerable population.


A critical review of the literature and current policy climate is undertaken to explore what is known about the experiences of females in the justice system, as well as knowledge gaps.


Evidence on the prevalence and nature of offending by girls in care is limited. However, as looked after children, girls may be more likely to have their own behaviour unnecessarily criminalised. Whilst females and males share some prior experiences of victimisation and trauma, girls also have distinct needs and may be assessed and managed by state care and control systems in very different ways.

Research limitations/implications

The paper is not based on primary research and does not present a systematic review of the literature.

Practical implications

The need to listen to girls and young women, and a far greater recognition of backgrounds of trauma must underpin future policy and practice. Diversion from the formal criminal justice system wherever possible is also a key goal to aspire to.


This paper focuses on the specific experiences of females. It calls for a gender-sensitive, trauma-informed approach to working with girls and women from the care system who come into conflict with the law, and questions the value of criminalising those whom the state previously deemed to be in need of welfare and support.



Fitzpatrick, C. (2017), "What do we know about girls in the care and criminal justice systems?", Safer Communities, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 134-143.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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