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Youth Justice

Volume 597: debated on Tuesday 23 June 2015

There has been a welcome decline over the past few years in the number of young offenders, but we know that more needs to be done to prevent young people being drawn into crime. We are committed to preventing youth offending and supporting young people to turn their back on crime.

The number of young people behind bars is indeed falling, but the latest figures show that the number of white children in custody has fallen at twice the rate of that for those from ethnic minorities. What is the Justice Secretary doing to ensure that we help all young people to turn their lives around, regardless of race or background?

The hon. Lady makes a very important point. As we discussed earlier in this questions session, there is often a link between circumstances of deprivation and a propensity to offend among young people. Sadly, far too many people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds grow up in homes where they do not have the stability, support and love that all of us think every young person should have. We need to do more to intervene long before young people fall into the hands of the justice system. Working with the Department for Education, I hope we can improve the way in which we support families, support the family courts and support the care system to look after damaged and fragile young people.

Consistently, Labour Members, along with charities such as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, have argued that the idea of a secure college for young offenders is fundamentally wrong. Will the Justice Secretary indicate whether he has yet decided to drop his plans?

An interesting and pithy response, but it does not take us forward, does it? We all agree that education should play a central role in rehabilitation, but spending £85 million on a new prison of this kind is not the best way to help young offenders. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has expressed misgivings about these plans, so will the Justice Secretary tell us, here and now, whether the project will be cancelled?

The hon. Gentleman makes some characteristically effective points, and of course I was listening very carefully.