Youth custody level drops below 900

Neil Puffett
Friday, April 8, 2016

The number of under-18s in custody has fallen to a record low, dropping below the 900 mark for the first time.

Figures published by the Ministry of Justice today show that, as of February this year, there were 877 under-18s in custody, a fall of 44 (4.8 per cent) in a single month.

The current level now stands at around a quarter (28.5 per cent) the level of the recent peak, when in June 2008 it stood at 3,072.

However, the statistics also show that ethnic disproportionality within youth custody is continuing to rise.

Of the 877 under-18s in custody, 370 were black, Asian or from an ethnic minority background – representing 42.2 per cent of the total, compared with 56.3 per cent who were white, with 1.5 per cent classified as "not known".

This is a rise on the January figures when, out of a total of 921 under-18s in custody, 382 were black, Asian or from an ethnic minority background – representing 41.5 per cent of the total.

During the recent peak in youth custody figures, in June 2008, the proportion of young people who were black, Asian or from an ethnic minority background stood at 25.3 per cent, compared with 67.1 per cent who were white, with the ethnicity of 7.6 per cent not known.

Penelope Gibbs, chair of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice described the record low as “fantastic”. However she stressed that the proportions of children on remand and from BAME communities is still “alarmingly high”.

“These are long-term trends and we need to discover whether ethnic minority children are being discriminated against at any point, and why so many children are locked up on remand, only to be freed on sentence,” she said.

YJB chief executive Lin Hinnigan said: “Those working across the youth justice sector have delivered a huge reduction in the numbers of children in the system – falling from 147,600 at its peak in 2006/07 to just 37,900 in 2014/15.

“This has significantly reduced the impact of young people’s offending on society, their potential victims, and on the young people themselves, as well as helping to deliver savings to the economy.
 
“The continuing fall in numbers of young people in custody is good news. To ensure those young people are effectively rehabilitated it is important that custodial and community services work closely together.

“Increasing this integration of services is something the YJB has emphasised in discussions with Charlie Taylor as part of his review of youth justice.”

Taylor’s review of the youth justice system is also looking at the issue of over-representation.

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