Fewer youngsters offend

NEARLY 1,300 Suffolk youngsters - some aged just 10-years-old - entered the criminal justice system for the first time in 2007/08, it has emerged.The figure, released by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, is the lowest the county has seen for five years.

NEARLY 1,300 Suffolk youngsters - some aged just 10-years-old - entered the criminal justice system for the first time in 2007/08, it has emerged.

The figure, released by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, is the lowest the county has seen for five years.

It is also less than the neighbouring counties of Essex and Norfolk, although higher than in Cambridgeshire.

Peter Fox, acting head of Suffolk Youth Offending Service (YOS), said the number was “encouraging” and suggested that prevention work was proving very effective.

According to the figures 1,288 youngsters aged 10 to 17 entered Suffolk's criminal justice system for the first time in 2007/08.

This compares to 1,337 in the previous financial year and is lower than the 1,607 seen in Norfolk and the 2,844 in Essex.

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Mr Fox said the YOS has operated Youth Inclusion and Support Panels (YISP) across the county for several years now.

“This works by individual families, schools or the police identifying young people from aged eight who are at risk of offending and referring them to us,” he said. “We assess them and if the risk is significant we then offer them a voluntary programme to reduce it.

“Working with a range of organisations such as schools, youth clubs and health professionals, we try to tackle the risks which are often not that complex.

“Among these could be work on parenting skills, how to use leisure time constructively or how to deal with bullying/poor behaviour that has led to school exclusions.”

Mr Fox said this prevention work ensured children and young people do not get sucked into the criminal justice system or become persistent offenders.

“We believe this is the most effective way of reducing negative and anti-social attitudes and behaviours among young people for the longer term,” he added.