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Young Offenders

Introduction

Patterns of offending by young people in Reading are similar to the national picture. The numbers of young offenders overall are falling slowly. A number of youths will receive Out of Court Disposals and most of those sentenced at court are given community based restorative Referral or Youth Rehabilitation Orders.  Those most likely to become young offenders are children and young people who are already vulnerable and marginalised. 

What do we know?

Nationally, the number of young people in the Youth Justice System (YJS) continued on a downward trend in 2015-16. The number of young people entering the system for the first time, and the total number receiving disposals and custodial sentences both fell slightly. 

The overall number of young people in the YJS continued to reduce in the year ending March 2015. Reductions have been seen in the number entering the system for the first time (First Time Entrants, FTEs), as well as reductions in those receiving disposals, including those receiving custodial sentences. 

Compared to the year ending March 2010, there are now 67% fewer young people who were FTEs, 65% fewer young people who received a youth caution or court disposal2 and 57% fewer young people (under 18) in custody in the youth secure estate. 

The reoffending rate has increased (by 5.6 percentage points since the year ending March 2008, to 38.0% in the year ending March 2014), but there were significant falls in the number of young people in the cohort, the number of reoffenders and the number of reoffences.

In 2015-6 there were 194 proven offences committed by young people in Reading; this compares with 217 offences the year before and continues the trend of reducing youth offending. However In 2015-6 there were 69 First time entrants to the Youth Justice System. This is an increase from 53 first time entrants into the Youth Justice System in Reading in 2014-5, the rate increasing from 411 per 100,000 population, to 550. The trend of an increase in first time entrants is against the regional and national trends.

Table 1 - First time entrants to the Youth Justice System 2010-2014

1
1

1b
1b

The reoffending rate of the young people that are known to the service has stabilised after an increase in the recent period. The numbers of young people in the cohort are small and trends are susceptible to small changes. 

As nationally, the most frequently proven type of offence in Reading (April 2014- Mar 2015) was violence against the person, which accounted for 24.9% of the offences committed (compared to 23.8% in England and Wales). Higher proportions of offences by young people in Reading were recorded for domestic burglary (10.6%, compared to 2.9%, nationally) and motoring offences (10.6%, compared to 7%, nationally). 

Nationally and regionally just over three quarters of young people who offend are male (78% and 76%) in Reading in 2015-6 there are a greater proportion of male offenders at 84%.

Reading has a demographically more diverse population than the regional and national proportions. Of note however in Reading are the lower number of young people identifying as Asian who offended in 2015-6, compared with the local 2011 census data (5.6% compared with 14%). However, there are correspondingly a greater proportion of white young people in the 2015-6 offending cohort (75% as opposed to 69%) and also of those identifying as black (9.3% as compared with 7.8% of the local population of youth offending age)

Again reflecting the national picture, in 2015-6 approximately a third of young offenders are given Pre- court outcomes (34% locally, 33% regionally and 31% nationally). However at court the National and regional figures indicate a greater number of Referral Order disposals (47% and 43% respectively.) Reading has only 26% of disposals sentenced with a Referral Order appropriate for young people who plead guilty and are convicted for the first time of an imprisonable offence and with an emphasis on restorative justice. Reading consequently has a greater proportion of Youth Rehabilitation Orders a community based sentence for more serious offenders, combining a range of requirements that can be applied as appropriate than the regional and National proportion. (37% in Reading as compared with 18% regionally and 20% nationally) 7 offences committed by Young People in Reading (5.5% of offences by young people) resulted in a custodial sentence (either a Detention and Training Order (DTO) or a section 90/91 sentence for very serious offences), compared to 4.1% of offences by young people in England and Wales.

What are the key inequalities?

Young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system are likely to be amongst the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society, and face greater marginalisation as a result of their offending (British Medical Association, 2014). In 2011 the Prison Reform Trust highlighted the high prevalence of looked after children and care leavers in prisons (Blades et al, 2011). 

In 2016, 4.2% of children in Reading aged 10 or older who had been looked after for 12 months or more were convicted or subjected to a Police Reprimand or Final Warning during the year, compared to 5.2% nationally (Department for Education, 2015). 

It is widely accepted that around 60% of young people in the justice system have speech, language and communication needs (Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy). Research clearly shows that SLCN are strongly over-represented within the justice system.

What is this telling us?

Patterns of offending by young people in Reading are similar to the national picture. The numbers of young offenders are falling slowly and most are sentenced to community based restorative Referral or Youth Rehabilitation Orders.  As elsewhere, around a quarter of offences were violence against the person, suggesting pervasiveness of violence amongst marginalised young people. There appear to be higher levels of domestic burglary and motoring offences by young people in Reading than elsewhere, although it is difficult to know if this difference is statistically significant, and, if it is, whether it reflects true differences in the amount of crime committed by young people, or reflects the rate of crimes detected or differences in the offenders that are successfully charged and convicted. Those most likely to become young offenders are children and young people who are already vulnerable and marginalised. Whilst the offending cohort in Reading is relatively small and demographic differences may vary more significantly over time, the more recent data from Reading suggests that targeted work with young men may be increasingly needed and that certain demographic groups in terms of those identifying as white or as black are more proportionately represented in offending statistics than other demographic groups. 

National and Local Strategy

Local Youth Offending Services (YOS) are multi-agency teams coordinated by Local Authorities that were set up under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to prevent offending or re-offending by children and young people. They look into the background of a young person and try to help them stay away from crime. Usually, the police are the first people to contact the youth offending team but family members and friends can also contact them if they're worried about a young person's behaviour. The Partnership is overseen by a Youth Justice Management Board including statutory partners, Local Authority, Police, Probation and Health, with representation from the Courts.  The YOS's multi agency approach to meeting the needs of young people ensures that it plays a significant role in meeting the safeguarding requirements of these young people. 

The YOS are more actively working to identify and work with those more at risk of reoffending to prevent an escalation of this behaviour and improve their life chances. The YOS are working to assist young people who are not in Education training or Employment to secure and maintain appropriate opportunities in this area. The YOS are committed to identifying and addressing concerns of Child Sexual Exploitation and are screening all open cases. The YOS are aware of the speech and language and communication needs of young people and are screening active cases in this area and looking to develop resources that will address the identified issues. There is strong evidence that there are links between the experience of children and young people and the potential for them to go on and exhibit abusive behaviour on their own relationships. The YOS will continue to develop programmes and approaches for these young people in 2016/7.

References 

British Medical Association (2014). Young Lives Behind Bars: the health and human rights of children and young people detained in the criminal justice system. London, BMA. 

Department for Education (2015). Children looked after in England including adoption: 2014 to 2015 - Local Authority tables. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/children-looked-after-in-england-including-adoption-2014-to-2015 [Accessed 3rd October 2016] 

Blades, R, Di Hart, Lea, J and Willmott, N. (2011). Care - a stepping stone to custody? The views of children in care on the links between care, offending and custody. Prison Reform Trust, London. 

Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy. Available at: https://www.rcslt.org/about/young_offenders_and_criminal_justice/intro  [accessed 19th December 2016]

Youth Justice Government statistics. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/youth-justice-annual-statistics-2014-to-2015  
 

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