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Youth Referral Orders

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 29 April 2008

The referral order at 44 per cent. has the lowest reconviction rate of any court sentence for under-18s. It is the primary community sentence for young offenders appearing in court for the first time who plead guilty and comprises about a quarter of all juvenile community sentences.

I am very grateful for my right hon. Friend’s response and for the good record in respect of youth referral orders. Is he satisfied that there are sufficient resources on the ground to ensure that these quite complex orders can be properly managed and that young people can get the services they need to become constructive and functioning adults?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her comments. She will know that these orders have been successful and that some 28,722 were made in 2006-07. The question of resources is indeed important. Following some challenges in my hon. Friend’s own area of Northamptonshire, the local authority has reversed funding cuts to youth offending teams recently—indeed, it provided £165,000 of additional funds to support the referral order process. As I say, the issue of resourcing is very important and there is a priority for youth crime prevention. In our forthcoming youth crime action plan, we will be looking to see what further steps we can take to support youth offending teams and their disposal at local level.

My constituents on the Swinemoor estate in Beverley want more effective action taken against the tiny minority of hooligans on that estate. I congratulate Inspector Alan Farrow and his team on their efforts to protect the public, but what assessment has the Secretary of State made of extending penalty notices for disorder to the under-16s?

We are looking into that issue. The question refers specifically to the youth referral order. I commend the work of the police in such areas as Beverley. I was in Humberside only a few weeks ago, looking into how the probation service was working with the Prison Service and other community agencies to tackle antisocial behaviour and other related issues. I think that it is important to look into what further support we can give, and we are currently looking into extending prevention notices. The youth referral order has been a success with a 44 per cent. reconviction rate, which is a good figure for the Government, showing the performance in respect of this particular order.

It gives me no pleasure to say that right across the country, thousands of communities—especially the parishes of Downton and Redlynch in my constituency—are dreading the onset of summer. During warm, light summer nights, a minority of young people—many drunk and on drugs—will cause low-level crime, intimidation and harassment and use bad language across these communities. When people talk to the police, the league tables on the wall are pointed out and they are told that crime is dropping. When will someone get the point that people are no longer reporting low-level crime and are not bothering to tell the police because the police do not have the resources to respond? It is no good anyone in this House trying to convince my constituents that crime, particularly among young people, is falling, with or without the youth referral orders. The problem really must be tackled if there is to be continuity of confidence in our local police and justice system.

I think the hon. Gentleman does a disservice to the work of the police in his own community. He will know that the police actually take these issues very seriously. Over the past 10 years, we have had a 30 per cent. reduction in crime and we have more police on the streets than ever before. I am happy to receive representations from the hon. Gentleman on these important issues. Such low-level crime is significant because it damages the quality of life of people not only in villages but throughout the community. The referral order is successful in bringing individuals to court. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the range of disposals we have introduced in the past 10 years, including antisocial behaviour orders and the power for police to take young people to their parents, he will see that a number of significant measures are in place. As I said, I am happy to receive representations from the hon. Gentleman, but if he looks at the facts he will see that the Government have done a tremendous amount of work in reducing the levels of such crime.