Sentencing lottery for young offenders

Justice by geography is still a major issue for young offenders,
according to the Youth Justice Board.

New figures covering the six months to March 2003 show big
variations in the rate of custodial sentences imposed by courts on
young people in different areas, irrespective of the nature of the
offence. For example, south east England (excluding London) has a
custody rate (custodial sentences as a proportion of community
penalties)  of 7.2 per cent although the gravity of offences are
relatively high. In Wales, where the gravity score is lower, the
custody rate is 10.5 per cent.

Between Yots (young offender teams) the differences are even
greater, ranging from 28.2 per cent in Luton to less than 1 per
cent in Dorset and West Berkshire.

Overall there has been a slight decrease in the use of custodial
sentences, and the population of juveniles in custody fell by about
8 per cent. This is likely to continue says the YJB as the
Intensive Supervision and Surveillance order – the new
community-based alternative to a custodial sentence is rolled out

Charles Pollard, acting chairperson of the YJB, has urged Yots
and the courts to make sure custodial sentences are given only when
no alternative will do.

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