New custody powers over young repeat offenders go national

Courts across the country will have new powers to remand 12- to
16-year-old persistent offenders in custody from this week, in a
bid to cut the problem of teenagers who reoffend while on

The scheme, piloted since April in 10 areas with high levels of
street crime, is now being launched nationally under section 130 of
the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001.

The powers will apply to young people charged with offences such as
car crime, non-domestic burglary and vandalism whom the courts
believe will continue to commit offences if released on bail.

Home Office minister Hilary Benn said early intervention and strong
community sentences, including intensive supervision and
surveillance programmes and antisocial behaviour orders, were
crucial in the fight against crime.

“However, for a minority of young people, custody is the only way
of protecting the public,” he added. “Courts across the country
will now have the option of remanding these teenagers into custody
for their own, and society’s, protection.”

But the Children’s Society has warned that the new law will result
in innocent children being locked up and is calling for the
immediate repeal of section 130.

The charity’s research found that more than half of children put on
remand in prison were later found to be not guilty of an offence or
given a community sentence. It also found, in 25 per cent of cases,
children were being jailed on remand for more than 10 weeks, and in
one case as long as 500 days.

The Children’s Society fears for the welfare of the children who
are locked up in prison environments. Of the 4,000 children
interviewed while on remand in prison, 340 had mental health
problems, 318 had attempted suicide or self-harm, 252 were victims
of bullying, and 27 had child protection issues.

“This new law is creating chaos,” said Sharon Moore, youth justice
programme manager at the Children’s Society. “The prison service is
being forced to squeeze children into an already overcrowded
system. Older vulnerable children are being moved out of secure
accommodation into prisons to make way for younger ones.”

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