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The Year In Youth Justice (2021/22)
The Youth Justice Board Annual Report highlights the key trends for children in contact with the justice system.

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Youth Justice Trends

Last week (13 October 2022), the Youth Justice Board published its annual report and accounts for 2021/22. The report starts by reiterating the YJB’s commitment to the Child First approach and: “A youth justice system that sees children as children, treats them fairly and helps them to build on their strengths so they can make a constructive contribution to society. This will prevent offending and create safer communities with fewer victims”. This blog post picks out some of the key facts and figures from the report which I hope will be of interest to readers.

The YJB is responsible for most of the funding for the Youth Justice and its net expenditure for 2021/22 was £94.3 million.

Headline trends

The YJB annual report is a useful source for the latest trends in youth justice. Of course this year’s figures should be considered in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The periods of restrictions, including court closures, pauses to jury trials, court backlogs, changes to people’s behaviour, including reduced social contact and changes to custodial regimes arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, led to changes in opportunities for offending, to delays in completion of judicial processes, and to changes in behaviour.

  • Overall, the number of children cautioned or sentenced, as FTEs or for a reoffence, has continued to reduce. In part this reflects efforts across a range of agencies to divert and prevent children from entering or staying in the criminal justice system.
  • The number of knife and offensive weapon offences committed by children decreased by 21% in 2020/21. Whilst this was the third successive year-on-year decrease, the challenge remains to continue to reduce the number of children carrying and using knives.
  • In the year ending March 2021, proven serious violent offences accounted for 9% of total proven offences. A serious violent offence is defined as drug, robbery or violence against the person offences with a gravity score of 5 or above.

Complexity of need

As the number of children entering the criminal justice system has reduced, those that the system work with are likely to be children with more persistent and troubled behaviours. This increased complexity demands enhanced and integrated services to meet the needs of the children and help them to successfully develop their skills and talents.

Racial disparity

Despite reductions in the number of children in the youth justice system across all ethnicity groups, some ethnicities are still over-represented. In 2020/21, Black children were five times more likely to be subject to stop and search, over four times more likely to be arrested, and over three times more likely to receive a caution or sentence than White children. London had a far higher rate of stop and search than any other region accounting for just 15% of the total population. At almost 60 per 1,000 10 to 17 year olds this was three times the national rate and nearly ten times the lowest regional rate, in the East Midlands.
From the latest available figures for England only, children from some ethnic minority groups are more likely to have looked after status. Specifically, children from a Mixed or Multiple background are twice as likely to be looked after, making up 10% of children looked-after but only 5% of the general under 18 year old population. Similarly, children from a Black or Black British background make up 7% of children looked after but only 5% of the general under 18 year old population. 
This shows that children who have been looked after disproportionately enter the criminal justice system. It also highlights the complexity of intersectionality and multiple disadvantage.

The infographic reproduced below gives a helpful snapshot of the demographics of children in the youth justice system.


The report also contains helpful information on the YJB’s latest “pathfinders” pilot initiatives to target additional funding to youth justice services (YJSs) and their partners to directly benefit frontline services and make a positive difference in the lives of children. Alongside the YJB’s focus on pandemic response, they have also mobilised pathfinders to support system improvement in the following areas:

  • diversionary practice
  • custody and resettlement
  • trauma-informed practice
  • serious violence and child criminal exploitation.


Thanks to Ben Weber for kind permission to use the header image in this post which was previously published on Unsplash.

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