Cutbacks prevent magistrates from using alternatives to custody

Neil Puffett
Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Youth court magistrates are being denied the ability to impose community alternatives to custody for young offenders because of council cutbacks, the Magistrates' Association has warned.

Magistrates have warned that they are unable to impose alternatives to custody. Image: Tom Campbell
Magistrates have warned that they are unable to impose alternatives to custody. Image: Tom Campbell
John Fassenfelt, deputy chair of the Magistrates’ Association said some local authorities have reduced provision of parenting orders and aspects of the youth rehabilitation order (YRO).

The YRO came into effect in Autumn 2009 replacing previous community sentences with a single ‘menu’ of sentencing options, the hope being that it would be more robust, leading to less custodial sentences.

Options available under the YRO include a local authority residence requirement, drug treatment requirement and intensive supervision and surveillance.

"We are beginning to get messages about programmes not being available because of cutbacks," Fassenfelt said.

"There are a whole variety of programmes not available up and down the country. It worries us because everybody has put in hard work to get the custody levels down. These alternatives have to be funded or custody levels will go up again."

The use of custody among children is currently at its lowest level in more than a decade.

Fassenfelt’s observations mirror concerns raised by the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers (AYM) six months ago.

AYM chair Lorna Hadley warned that cuts as a result of the comprehensive spending review could jeopardise aspects of the YRO.

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