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Huge fall in number of young people entering criminal justice system

The number of young people entering the criminal justice system has fallen significantly over the last 10 years  Picture: ADRIAN JUDD

The number of young people entering the criminal justice system has fallen significantly over the last 10 years Picture: ADRIAN JUDD

Archant © 2005

Children and young people are almost 90% less likely to be cautioned or convicted for a first offence in Suffolk than a decade ago, according to new figures.

The number of juvenile first time entrants (FTEs) to the criminal justice system fell from 1,239 in 2007/08 to just 134 in 2017/18, echoing an 86% national fall.

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures showed the rate of juveniles receiving their first reprimand, warning, caution or conviction fell from 1,724 to 202 per 100,000 Suffolk residents aged 10-17, compared to 261 nationally.

Last year, Suffolk’s young FTEs included two boys, aged 16 and 17, given community sentences for robbery. Just one youth, a boy of 16, received immediate custody for first-time drug offences.

The decade decline followed a three-year rise, as young FTEs hit 110,784 across the country in 2007.

A 2017 MoJ report suggested the rise was due to police focusing on youngsters committing low-level offences, in order to hit targets for closing the gap between recorded crime and identified offenders, in a process known as ‘net widening’.

In 2008, targets were revised to focus on serious offences less likely to be committed by youths.

There was also a 45% fall in adult FTEs to 1,017, while adult offenders with previous convictions fell 39% to 3,614, with immediate custodial sentences down a fifth to 630. Meanwhile, 239 youths with at least one previous conviction returned to the system, compared to 1,510 in 2007/08, with 82% fewer imprisonments (14).

Suffolk police said it worked with partners to identify and engage with vulnerable youths to prevent escalation of offending.

A school liaison officer and safer neighbourhood teams identify potential young offenders and first seek to address behaviour, with appropriate and proportionate action taken against anti-social behaviour and crime, a spokesman said.

“There are other alternatives to the power of arrest, such as voluntarily attendances at a police station, community resolutions, restorative justice or community protection notices all of which provide different avenues to the criminal justice system.

“It’s important to note that officers always ensure they are victim focused in dealing with offenders, and address offending behaviour proportionately and effectively,” they added.

Children under 10 are below the age of ‘criminal responsibility’ but offences will be recorded.

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