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Young Offenders: Custodial Treatment

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 28 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps he is taking to reduce the use of penal custody for child offenders; and how many such offenders are being supervised in the community. (251461)

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 provides for a new generic community sentence for under 18s, the Youth Rehabilitation Order (YRO), which will replace nine existing community sentences. The Order provides a range of requirements providing a flexible sentence that can be tailored to meet individual offenders' needs. It includes two high intensity requirements, intensive supervision and surveillance and fostering set as direct alternatives to custody. The Act will also require a court to consider using a YRO with one of the high intensity requirements prior to custody. If custody is still given the sentencer must explain in court why the high intensity community sentence is not appropriate.

In addition the Government have provided a range of out of court disposals designed to keep low level offences and offenders out of the criminal justice system, yet provide interventions to prevent reoffending. The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act introduces the Youth Conditional Caution which will be available to the Crown Prosecution Service as a final out of court disposal. Both these measures will be brought into effect later this year.

This Government believe in early intervention and prevention, but recognises that where offending occurs we should have a structured, robust sentencing framework aimed at preventing reoffending. However, where the offence is serious or persistent and there is a risk of harm to the public then custody should be available. These aims are set out in the Youth Crime Action Plan published in July 2008.

The number of 10 to 18s getting community sentences in 2007 was 66,007 out of a total of 97,387 sentenced. This counts all types of offence at magistrates’ courts and the Crown court. These figures have been drawn from administrative data systems. Although care is taken when processing and analysing the returns, the detail collected is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps he is taking to reduce the number of child deaths in custody. (251462)

The death of any young person is a tragedy. The Government are committed to reducing the number of deaths in custody.

The Youth Justice Board’s Child Protection and Safeguarding Programme 2005-08 included a wide range of safeguarding initiatives including:

the introduction of specialised safeguarding posts within Young Offender Institutions;

the introduction of local authority social workers to meet the welfare needs of young people in custody;

the introduction of an independent advocacy service to provide young people with assistance if they wish to make complaints or need advice;

the development of policies and guidance that specifically address the needs of young people, such as anti-bullying and violence reduction;

consideration of building and cell design, including increasing the presence of CCTV cameras in known bullying hotspots; and

increased child protection and safeguarding training.

In December 2008, the Youth Justice Board (YJB) published its “Review of Safeguarding in the Secure Estate”. Safeguarding remains a priority and the YJB is working with cross-Government partners and secure estate providers to improve the safeguarding of young people in the secure estate.