Bid to keep young people out of jail backfires as courts refuse to relent

An initiative to reduce the number of under-18s in custody is
failing to have a significant impact because courts are using it to
tackle less serious offences, a leading crime reduction campaigner
has warned.

Chris Stanley, head of crime reduction at Nacro, said intensive
supervision and surveillance programmes were being used instead to
strengthen community sentences. Courts seemed reluctant to use the
ISSPs for offences which traditionally carried custodial

An ISSP is a community penalty that provides intensive
surveillance and at least 25 hours a week education and training,
offending behaviour work, reparation and family support. It is
targeted at persistent young offenders and can be a condition of
bail or of a court order involving a community and or a custodial

“ISSPs have not been as successful as perhaps they could have
been,” Stanley told a conference on youth crime last week. “It took
up the slack at the upper end of community sentences. It has not
been used to deal with children committing offences higher up the

Youth Justice Board (YJB) figures show that 6,339 young people
were placed on the programmes by courts between their introduction
in July 2001 and the end of September 2003. But the number of
under-18s in custody fell by only 143 to 2,760 between July 2001
and August 2003.

Stanley called for ISSPs to be used as a “genuine alternative to
custody” and for the provision of “more robust community sentences
at the higher end” to prevent ISSPs being misused.

Youth Justice – The Next Steps, a companion document to
the children’s green paper, proposes that ISSPs be included
alongside custody within an intensive supervision or detention
order for serious and repeat offenders.

Stanley supported this move saying that it would make ISSPs into
actual orders that could not be used for community sentences.

Meanwhile, new figures from the YJB have found that there are
still significant variations in the use of custodial sentences in
different areas that cannot be explained by the nature of the
offences alone. Custody rates range from 28 per cent to less than 1
per cent in different youth offending team areas.

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