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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

The State of Youth Justice

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The number of children and young people in the youth justice system fell again in 2016/17 but knife crime was up and those detained were more likely to be restrained or separated.

Youth Justice Stats 2016/17

Last week (25 January 2018), the Youth Justice Board published statistics for the Youth Justice System (YJS) in England and Wales for the year ending March 2017 in terms of the number of children and young people (those aged 10 – 17) in the system, the offences they committed, the outcomes they received, their demographics and the trends over time.

The main findings are highlighted in the infographic below:

Youth crime down

One of the key issues emerging from the statistics is that youth crime keeps on falling:

  • The number of first time entrants has fallen to 16,500, a drop of 85% over the last 10 years, and by 11% in the last year.
  • The number of children and young people who received a caution or sentence has fallen by 81% over the last 10 years, and by 14% in the last year. Last year’s total was 28,400.
  • The number of children and young people sentenced to immediate custody has fallen by 74% compared with 10 years ago, and by 7% in the last year. In the latest year, there was an average of around 870 children and young people in custody, with a total of 1,600 sentenced over the course of 2016/17.

More serious offenders with complex needs

However, those children and young people in the youth justice system are more likely to be more persistent and serious offenders and more likely to come from a BAME background (see my summary of the Lammy Review here).

  • The number of offences involving possession of a knife or offensive weapons committed by children and young people has increased by 11% since the year ending March 2012, while the number of these offences committed by adults has fallen by 10% over the same period.
  • The rate of single separation per 100 children and young people in Secure Children’s Homes and Secure Training Centres has seen a large increase in the latest year, from 52.3 to 93.9. The number of RPIs increased in the latest year by 5% to just over 4,500 after previously seeing decreases.
  • While the number of children and young people in custody from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background has been decreasing, the proportion has been increasing, accounting for 45% of the custodial population in the latest year, whilst only making up 18% of the 10 – 17 general population.

Indeed, the reoffending rate for children and young people increased by 4.0 percentage points compared with 10 years ago and compares to 28.2% for adults.

Related posts you might like:

Good news on young offenders

While there are plenty of things to complain about in our justice system, it seems churlish not to celebrate the continuing fall in youth crime and the reduction in the numbers of young people drawn into the system.

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What works with young offenders?

These findings are well known to researchers, policy makers and practitioners in the youth justice field although, as always, there is value in having them re-iterated. My personal view is that any reform of youth justice needs to focus on two key issues…

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Secure schools to replace youth custody?

In order that education is truly placed at the heart of youth custody, we must reconceive youth prisons as schools. The review’s ambition is for smaller custodial establishments which are created as secure schools…

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