Further fall in number of first-time young offenders

The number of young people convicted for an offence for the first time is continuing to fall, recent Ministry of Justice figures have revealed.  A total of 21,016 under-18s were convicted for an offence for the first time throughout the whole of 2014. This is a 10.7 per cent per cent drop on the 2013 figure of 23,537.  A breakdown of the figures for 2014 shows a fall in under-18 first-time entrants into the criminal justice system in almost all of the 12 crime categories collated by the Ministry of Justice, including violent assault, sexual offences, robbery, arson and drug offences.   The only two categories that witnessed a rise were the offence categories of possession of weapons and motoring offences.   While in 2013 a total of 959 young people were convicted for a first offence for possession of weapons, this rose to 1,195 during 2014.

Sally Benton, Nacro’s head of policy and public affairs said the MoJ data points to improved interventions and impact from system changes such as an investment in diversion services. 

"It is crucial that youth justice policy is focused on prevention and early intervention," she said.

"Getting in early with young people is money well spent. 

"We know that there is an over-representation of young people in custody with mental ill health, drug and alcohol problems, and who have been in the care system. We have to stop this cycle."

Chris Wright, chief executive of Catch22, said that while the drop in first-time entrants is "encouraging", it is concerning that reconviction rates are higher than they have been for over a decade. 

"Youth offending services must do better to understand and address the complex and interrelated issues that can lead to offending," he said. 

"They must identify those persistent offenders with the highest risk factors and ensure they are supported to desist from crime. 

"The most effective way to do this is by developing strong and meaningful relationships built on intimacy and empathy but which still maintain high levels of supervision and ensure appropriate boundaries are in place.” 

The overall fall in first-time entrants to the youth justice system is part of a steep, long-term decline in prosecutions of young people.   The latest figures show that over the last 11 years the number of prosecutions of under 18-year olds has fallen by around two thirds, compared with a drop of just under a fifth for adults over the same period. 

In 2014 there were 45,904 prosecutions of under-18s, compared with 140,920 in 2004. One of the sharpest falls since 2004 has been among prosecutions of 10- to 11-year-olds.  In 2004 there were 1,317 prosecutions in this age group, by 2014 this had fallen to 137.   In 2014 just one 10- to 11-year-old appeared before a crown court, compared with 15 in 2004. 

These latest figures are part of a raft of criminal justice figures released by the Ministry of Justice.  The data also reveals that more than a dozen young people were cautioned in relation to rape offences.   In 2014 a total of 16 cautions were handed out in relation to rape – 14 of them for under-18s and two for 18-year-olds.

SOURCE:  Children & Young People Now