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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Labour fail on youth crime

Apologies for the slight hiatus in posting but I have been away at the Hay Festival and have just got home. This did not stop me noting however this headline in today's Observer.

We have just been through a local election campaign in which Labour sought to focus on the issue of anti-social behaviour and attempted to blame local Councils for their failures in dealing with this issue. However, an internal government report has now concluded that it is Labour's 10-year strategy for tackling youth crime has failed:

The briefing document says that around 25 per cent of under-18s have committed an offence, while reoffending rates are 'very high and have not significantly changed' since 1997.

The embarrassing disclosures come despite a massive increase in the budget for tackling youth crime and counter Labour claims that the government has had significant success in reducing rates of offending among the young.

Cutting youth crime was a major Labour priority and yet they have made no progress in reaching their objectives:

The briefing notes that '5 to 6 per cent' of young offenders commit between 50 and 60 per cent of all juvenile crime, with an average of 30 to 40 offences a year. The worst offenders have a 96 per cent reoffending rate, with each costing taxpayers £80,000 a year.

Despite the courts handing down some 34,000 community and 7,000 custodial sentences a year, reoffending rates in Britain remain some of the highest in the world. The document reveals that 70 per cent of male offenders under the age of 18 who receive a community sentence commit further crimes, compared with 76 per cent of those who are given a custodial sentence.

The briefing suggests that the youth justice system raises 'barriers to effective resettlement' after young offenders have finished their sentences and that by setting strict supervision conditions it leads to an increasing number of children breaching their orders, which in turn triggers more custodial sentences.

'Labour policies on youth justice over the past decade have resulted in a huge rise in children jailed,' said Harry Fletcher, of the probation union Napo. 'It's to be welcomed that this policy is being revisited so that more emphasis can be put on support and education of the poorest children.'

Labour's slogan of 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime' has been lost in all of their macho posturing. They forgot to deal with the causes.
It is surely worth seeking the devolution of the criminal justice system, to Wales, so that this mess can be sorted out. There is a One Wales commitment toward considering this.
The point is that Labour have tried to deal with this issue through the criminal justice system and have failed. Other solutions need to be pursued, which the Assembly already has the powers to deal with.
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