The Youth Justice Board is to be abolished and its responsibilities transferred to the Ministry of Justice, it was confirmed today, ending widespread speculation about its future.
The announcement follows controversy over the original decision to scrap the YJB, first announced in October as part of the government proposals to scrap 192 quangos..
In March the House of Lords rejected the YJB’s abolition after peers backed an amendment to the Public Bodies Bill calling for its removal from the at-risk list. Proposed by Lord Warner, a former YJB chair, it was passed by a majority of 63, with cross-party support.
Lord Woolf, former lord chief justice, said it would be “sacrilege if, whatever the motives put forward, we took out of the criminal justice system something that works, and introduced something that has not worked and has not been tried”.
But today justice secretary Kenneth Clarke dashed hopes of a rescue. He said a government amendment would be brought forward to reintroduce the YJB to the list of quangos to be abolished in the Public Bodies Bill, now before parliament.
He said the YJB – which was set up in 1998 – had overseen the national rollout of youth offending teams and the launch of a distinct secure estate for young people, but said “these core elements are now fully operational in the local delivery of youth justice”.
Clarke added: “Given these significant improvements, I believe that we no longer require a separate body to provide oversight of the youth justice system.”
He said ministers rather than “unelected officials in arm’s length bodies” should be responsible for youth justice and that this would be best achieved by bringing the YJB’s functions into the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). YJB chief John Drew will lead the switch into a new youth justice division at the MoJ.
Clarke said the new division would be able to better influence government policy and ensure that other departments played their part in preventing young people becoming involved in crime and reoffending.
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