Sunday, January 20, 2008

Youth Injustice

Serious youth crime is rocketing (source: Youth Justice Annual Statistics 2005/06)

Following the trial of Gary Newlove's teenage killers , we are inundated with shocking revelations about our ineffectual youth justice system (and see this blog for BOM's own criminal justice summary).

1. Violent youth crime is soaring

According to research by the Sunday Telegraph:

"In three years the number of under-18s convicted or cautioned over violent offences rose from 17,590 to 24,102 - an increase of 37 per cent.

Total youth offences climbed steadily from 184,474 in 2003 to 222,750 in 2006, the last year for which figures are available - a rise of 21 per cent. But the increase in violent offending was steeper, while robberies rose even more dramatically, up 43 per cent over the three years."

And take a look at the Youth Justice Board's own stats above (click on chart to enlarge). They show the fastest growing category of recorded youth crime is violence against the person, closely followed by criminal damage and breach of control orders (ASBOs etc).

2. The government orders bail for thugs

We were all appalled to discover one of the scum who murdered Mr Newlove was actually out on bail awaiting sentence for a previous vicious attack. Especially given his history of criminal violence (see his full record here).

Even worse, it seems releasing thugs onto our streets is standard practice, ordered by our we-know-best clothead rulers.

The Telegraph research finds "three-quarters of all violent crime suspects are freed on bail while awaiting Crown Court trials".

In the Sunday Times, Rod Liddle quotes chapter and verse on the policy:

"Two years ago the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) sent out advice to all those working in the courts advising that Her Majesty’s Courts Service (HMCS) had new stipulations on the granting and not granting of bail, regardless of the offence committed. The CPS advice reads: “Remands in custody should only be sought when only [sic] absolutely necessary, in circumstances when bail conditions cannot meet bail objections.” And, in 2003 the HMCS (for which we ought to read “the government”) “invited courts considering . . . custody to consider curfew”.

The latest advice from the government’s Sentencing Guidelines Council is even more simple and straightforward: “All youths appearing before the youth courts are entitled to unconditional bail” unless there are extraordinary extenuating circumstances."

This is all down to our rulers once again deciding to ignore what we little people want, and to impose their own half-baked wishful thinking, irrespective of how much danger and loss the rest of us might suffer.

3. Them and us government

One reason that our rulers don't take our wishes seriously is that they exist inside a pampered, highly secure bubble, well insulated from the realities of life out here.

As if to emphasise the point, the Sunday Times carries an extraordinary interview with our ineffectual Home Secretary. Asked whether she would feel safe walking on her own around Hackney at midnight, Jacqui replied:

“Well, no, but I don’t think I’d ever have done. You know, I would never have done that, at any point during my life.” Asked why not, she answered: “Well, I just don’t think that’s a thing that people do, is it, really?”

It was pointed out that some people, such as shift workers, had no choice. “Well, I wouldn’t walk around at midnight and I’m fortunate that I don’t have to do that,” she replied."

Yes, love, very fortunate. Any suggestions for the rest of us?

4. Your life in their hands

Last week saw the appointment of a new £85K pa head for the Youth Justice Board (HTP BG).

The YJB is the £0.5bn pa quango that "oversees the youth justice system in England and Wales. We work to prevent offending and reoffending by children and young people under the age of 18, and to ensure that custody for them is safe, secure, and addresses the causes of their offending behaviour."

As we can all see, they are doing a shockingly poor job. And indeed, their annual report tells us they've missed all their own key performance (PSA) targets:
  • Preventing first-time offences- missed- numbers rising

  • Reducing re-offending- missed

  • Reducing use of custody- missed (despite government orders noted above)

  • Improving assessement and services (eg teaching 3Rs to young criminals)- missed

It is in fact a clean sweep of failure.

Which is hardly surprising when you see the kind of person they appoint as head. Whereas you and I might pine for Clint Eastwood, or that sheriff from Alabama they had on the telly, Justice Secretary Straw has decided the very best person for the job is Frances Done CBE.

Who she?

She turns out to be a local authority bureaucrat from Manchester, who is also an ex-Labour councillor. And she says of her new job:

'The Board plays a crucial role in working with partners to protect both the public and the interests of children and young people. I look forward to collaborating with all those who can help to build safer communities and ensure that young people do not end up in the criminal justice system.'

Translation: yet more partnership protocols, yet more hand wringing, yet more excusing, and yet more yob violence.

Another £0.5bn pa we could save.

Or spend on 12,500 more prison places.