YOTs 'failing to learn' from serious incidents involving young offenders

Joe Lepper
Monday, June 29, 2015

Lessons are not being learned from serious incidents such as rape and murder committed by young offenders known to youth justice services, a review has found.

Serious incidents occur if young people known to youth justice services are charged with murder, rape, firearm possession, or attempt suicide. Picture: NTI
Serious incidents occur if young people known to youth justice services are charged with murder, rape, firearm possession, or attempt suicide. Picture: NTI

A report by HM Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) found that too often when probes into serious incidents were carried out by youth offending teams (YOTs), they failed to take into account the child’s history.

This made it difficult to explain why a serious incident – categorised as a serious crime either committed by, or against, a young person involved with a YOT – took place and take steps to prevent them in the future.

When lessons were identified, the inspectorate found that these were not being translated into “appropriate action to improve”.

Too often YOTs also failed to identify ways other professionals across social care, the police and health could learn from such incidents, the report found.
Another issue noted by HMIP was poor quality collection of data about such incidents by the Youth Justice Board (YJB), which led to “a high level of frustration and wasted time”.

HMIP also wants the YJB to step up the level of information it supplies to YOTs about latest trends and good practice about such incidents.

The research team noted that YOTs had not received any such information since April 2013.

A lack of management oversight of reviews was also found.

HMIP is calling for senior YOT managers to ensure they check through each review before it is sent to the YJB.

Other recommendations are that chairs of YOT management boards ensure other agencies contribute to reviews and are held to account.

The report is based on 30 reviews into serious incidents during 2014 across 19 YOTs.

These included young people charged with murder, rape, firearm possession and assault, as well as suicide attempts.

Just six reviews were considered "good" by the HMIP team in terms of lessons learned, four were "sufficient" and 15 were found to be "insufficient".

A further five were deemed to be "poor".

Among good practice highlighted was Hackney YOT’s identification of improvements to intelligence sharing with police following a murder.

Another was Cardiff YOT’s commissioning of an external consultant to carry out a review after a young person committed suicide.

Crucially, this looked in detail at the child’s history and behaviour.
Chief inspector of probation Paul Wilson said: “When things go wrong, it is the responsibility of leaders to ensure that lessons are learned. We found that while there were good intentions, the procedures in place had not facilitated a sufficient level of local and national learning.
“While relatively rare, serious incidents connected to safeguarding and public protection can have catastrophic consequences for all concerned. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that proper learning takes place in order to reduce the likelihood of similar events happening in the future.”

Recent high-profile incidents include the murder of 21-year-old Steven Grisales by a 15-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, on a London street over an argument about conkers.

The 15-year-old’s violent behaviour was already known to youth offending and social care professionals, a serious case review found.

In 2011, it emerged that a total of 132 young offenders died in “serious incidents” while under supervision in the community in a five-year period from 2006.

Dozens more were accused of serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder or rape, or were the victims of such crimes themselves.

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