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Young Offenders: Sentencing

Volume 471: debated on Monday 28 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will consider introducing a court diversion scheme for offenders aged 16 to 25 involving attendance on a course of military training as an alternative to court sentencing. (178215)

The Government share the concerns about offending by young people and recognise that the military may have resources that could benefit young offenders. We are consulting with a range of organisations which have an interest in youth justice and the provision of youth justice services as part of the Youth Crime Action Plan which will be published in the summer, and will consider the feasibility of sending young offenders on training programmes by the armed services in light of the response to that consultation.

However, we do not think that a course of military training is the answer. Research from the United States indicates that simply adopting a military-style regime does not, of itself, reduce reoffending. The more successful programmes were those which supported their physically challenging and highly disciplined regimes with well developed education and training addressing offending behaviour.

We are planning to test out the referral of young adult offenders (18 to 25 years) to existing senior attendance centres through the conditional cautioning scheme, which diverts offenders who admit their offence from court in appropriate circumstances. The centres aim to assist these offenders to acquire and develop personal responsibility, self-discipline and new practical skills and interests within a structured and disciplined environment.

At present, the conditional cautioning scheme applies only to those aged 18 and above, but we are extending the scheme to young offenders aged 16 and 17 years old through provisions in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill currently before Parliament.