The Home Office has failed to meet a key target on reducing reoffending by juveniles, according to the latest government figures released last week.
A Home Office report showed a 3.8 per cent drop in reoffending by 10- to 17-year-olds from 1997 to 2004, missing a public service agreement target to reduce the rate by 5 per cent.
A source close to the government said the failure to meet the PSA target, which was set out in the 2000 Home Office spending review, was “bad news” for the beleaguered department.
Youth justice campaigners said more juvenile offenders were likely to re-enter the criminal justice system since the introduction of new police targets and antisocial behaviour legislation.
Pauline Batstone, chair of the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers, said: “A lot more young people are being swept into the criminal justice system for behaviour which would previously not have been responded to as criminal.
“This is due to targets for offences brought to justice including police targets on the numbers of arrests and convictions.”
Chris Stanley, head of youth crime at Nacro, said young people were at risk of reoffending because of a lack of face-to-face contact time with youth offending team staff.
“Many staff have huge caseloads and are overwhelmed by increasing amounts of paperwork,” he said. “At the same time, they are under pressure to reduce reoffending. It’s a vicious circle.”
He said community sentences such as intensive supervision and surveillance programmes needed “beefing up” to effectively stop young people reoffending.
Youth Justice Board chair Rod Morgan said there was “still more to do” to ensure that reoffending levels continued to fall.
Home Office minister Baroness Scotland said a “steady reduction” in reoffending by young people had been achieved.
She added: “We have set ourselves ambitious goals in dealing with this most difficult group of offenders, many of whom come from extremely troubled backgrounds.”
The report showed reoffending rates by juvenile offenders who received pre-court disposals, non-custodial disposals and those released from custody in the first three months of 2004.
- Reoffending of Juveniles: Results from the 2004 Cohort from www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/