Alternative to prison needed, says Woolf

Insufficient resources mean young offenders
are “left languishing in overcrowded secure accommodation”, Lord
Chief Justice Woolf said last week.

Speaking at a conference on young offenders
organised by children’s welfare charity the Michael Sieff
Foundation, Lord Woolf said that punishment for street crime and
violence needed to be “robust”. He also said that it was vitally
important for young offenders to “acknowledge and recognise their
accountability for the suffering of their victim as a consequence
of their actions”.

But he warned that, because of the pressures
on the prison service and the lack of resources, a custodial
sentence “will not achieve the intended long-term change we

Lord Woolf told the conference that of those
offenders under 21 given custodial sentences, 76 per cent of males
and 58 per cent of women re-offended within two years of being

“This is a terrible indictment of the system
and we must find ways to break the repetitive cycle,” he said.

He welcomed the move to tackle the problems of
young offenders in a holistic manner, but urged that if real change
was to be made”we need to have open minds to new approaches such as
restorative justice”.

Possible changes discussed at the conference
included: continued involvement between the “sentencer” and the
sentenced, a responsibility for the judiciary to monitor the
progress of the child concerned, pre-trial therapy and a child
defendants’ pack.

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