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The State of Youth Justice (2024)
Annual Youth Justice Statistics paint a mixed picture.

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Youth Justice

Last week’s publication (25 January 2024) of the annual youth justice statistics (for 2022/23) provide many positives and plenty of concerns. There were reductions in cautions and sentences for knife crimes involving children, a decline in the overall number of children being sentenced or cautioned and the lowest number of children in custody  on record.   

Conversely, there were rises in children being stopped and searched, increases in the number of children being arrested and for the first time in the last 10 years, there has been a slight rise in the number of children who are entering the youth justice system for the first time (FTEs – first time entrants).

Gateway to the justice system

All figures are for the year ending 31 March 2023. 

  • There were around 107,800 stop and searches of children, an increase of 13% on the previous year, while remaining static for those aged 18 and over. Stop and searches involving children accounted for over one in five stop and searches where age was known.

  • Black children were involved in 20% of stop and searches (where ethnicity was known). This was 14 percentage points higher than the proportion of Black 10 to 17 year olds in the 2021 population and the only ethnic group to be over-represented compared with the population.

  • Over three quarters (77%) of stop and searches of children resulted in No Further Action, while 10% resulted in arrest.

  • Arrests of children increased for the second consecutive year, rising by 9% compared to the previous year to around 59,000.

First time Entrants

All figures are for the year ending 31 December 2022.

  • There were just under 8,400 child first time entrants (FTEs) to the youth justice system. For the first time in the last ten years, the number of child FTEs increased (by 1%) compared with the previous year, though this is still the second lowest number in the time series.

  • Compared with the previous year, the number of child FTEs aged 10 to 14 increased by 7% (or 160) to around 2,300, the first year-on-year increase in the last ten years while the number of child FTEs aged 15 to 17 decreased by 1% (or 60) to around 2,100.

  • While there was a 2% increase in the number of White child FTEs, the number of child FTEs from each ethnic minority group fell with Black child FTEs seeing the biggest decrease of 8%, followed by Asian child FTEs falling by 6% and Other child FTEs falling by 4%.

Cautions & sentences

All figures are for the year ending 31 March 2023. 

  • Around 13,700 children received a caution or sentence, a fall of 4% from the previous year and of 72% from ten years ago.

  • The number of children cautioned or sentenced in the 10 to 14 year old age group increased by 6%, whilst the number in the 15 to 17 year old ages groups decreased by 7%.

  • Black children remain over-represented, accounting for 11% of all children cautioned or sentenced compared with 6% of the 10 to 17 population, although the number of Black children cautioned or sentenced decreased by 10% compared with the previous year.

  • The number of children of all other ethnicities also decreased compared with the previous year: 14% for Other children, 8% for Asian children, 4% for both Mixed children and 2% for White children.

The YJB produced their usual helpful infographic summarising the main trends which I have reproduced below.

Use of remand

All figures are for the year ending 31 March 2023. 

  • Almost two thirds (63%) of children remanded to youth detention accommodation did not subsequently receive a custodial sentence.

  • Children remanded in youth custody accounted for 44% of the average youth custody population in the latest year, a slight decrease from 45% in the previous year. This is the second highest proportion seen in the last ten years with last year being the highest.

  • There were around 10,400 remand episodes of which the majority (79%) were bail remands, with youth detention accommodation remands accounting for 10%, and 12% being community remands with intervention.

Children in youth custody

All figures are for the year ending 31 March 2023. 

  • There was an average of around 440 children in custody at any one time during the year, a fall of 3% against the previous year and the lowest number on record.

  • The proportion of children held in custody on remand remained high at 44% (down from 45% compared to the previous year), the second largest proportion since the time series began.

  • Black children remain overrepresented in custody, accounting for 26% of the youth custody population compared with 6% of the 10 to 17 population. The number of Black children in custody decreased by 9% compared to the year ending March 2022, the largest decrease of any ethnicity.

  • The number of custodial episodes ending fell by 10% compared with the previous year, which continues the downward trend seen in recent years.

  • The median number of nights spent on remand in the latest year was 21 nights fewer than the previous year. The proportion of remands that lasted three months or more decreased from 43% to 31% compared to the previous year.

Conclusion

There is a lot of good news here but there is some real concern around the increase in younger children entering the youth justice system which will need careful analysis and responses from police, social services and youth offending services.

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