South Yorkshire’s top judge has called for children to be removed from dysfunctional homes at a young age to end the ‘frightening’ cycle of crime.
Judge Alan Goldsack QC, Recorder of Sheffield, revealed he is now dealing with the grandchildren of criminals he prosecuted or defended 40 years ago.
The judge spoke out as he retired after 43 years in the legal profession.
He said: “Some people become criminals because they enjoy crime and think it’s a good way of life and if they don’t get caught they think they can have a good lifestyle.
“But a frightening thing is the number of people I see who are the grandchildren of the people I have prosecuted and defended 40 years ago – because crime runs in families in the same way that being a doctor, teacher or lawyer does.
“We have to get in on the ground and remove young babies from the families that are going to produce the next generation of criminals, and that is why I did family law right up until the end because I think it is very important work.
“I have read so many pre-sentence reports where I said to myself ‘why was this person not adopted at birth? All the signs were there’.”
Judge Goldsack said prisons are full of criminals who are products of a failing care system, where children are removed from dysfunctional homes too late – at an age when it is difficult to find adoptive parents so the youngsters end up in care.
“A huge proportion of people that we see at court are products of the so called care system and a huge proportion of those in prison are a product of that so called care system,” the judge added.
“Family is all important if you want to prevent people becoming criminals - a stable family life prevents most people from becoming criminals.
“The care system is not working as well as it should be by a long chalk.
”Once children get beyond the age of four or five, what do you do if you bring that child into the care system?
“There is a shortage of parents wanting to adopt children of that age or above, so only few will be found homes, and if you a child you leave until they are nine or 10 the care system can’t do much for them at all - they can up going back home because there is nowhere else to put them.
“Children removed from home at 11 or 12 will invariably end up in a children’s home, which is why we have to get in early.
“It’s not uncommon for a dysfunctional family to have £250,000 spent on them, but if we got in early and removed children from these homes we could save thousands.”
Judge Goldsack also called for criminals to be given extra support once they are released from custody.
“Prison works in the sense that while offenders are inside they are not robbing people in the street, burgling homes or getting drunk and committing violence but one area which could improve is the amount of rehabilitation work available – there are fewer probation workers in prisons running the courses now that they used to,” he added.
“A few years ago people that used to go into prison came out sufficiently literate to get a job, because prisons were doing what schools should have done, but it’s different now.
“People doing short sentences are not getting the rehabilitation inside or the supervision on release – some don’t get further than the nearest pub when they are released and they spend the £46 they are given on release and within hours can be committing a burglary.
“Supervision on release is all important and something I think will cut crime.”