Most suggestions for punishing young offenders rejected

The government has rejected most punishments for young offenders suggested by the public on the Youth Justice Board’s Making Good website, but it remains committed to the controversial community reparation scheme.

During a six-week pilot in north-west England, which began in November, 9,900 people visited Making Good, which asked local communities to suggest reparation activities for young offenders serving community sentences.

Thirty-nine of the 131 suggestions were rejected as inappropriate and demeaning, including calls for young offenders to be publicly flogged or held in stocks.

The other rejected submissions were considered incomplete, impractical or high risk, including projects involving the operation of heavy machinery, according to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).

Some also replicated current reparation projects. “We are particularly prioritising schemes with new ideas,” an MOJ spokesperson said.

Only 61 of the suggestions contained specific details, as recommended by guidelines on the website, of projects that young offenders could undertake to “pay back” local communities harmed by offending behaviour.

The spokesperson said the government “had expected there to be a few inappropriate suggestions” but was “very pleased” with 92 positive responses. Six have been implemented and 28 are being assessed or are at an advanced stage.

Among the successful suggestions are for young offenders to undertake activities to pay back local communities, including clearing snow and ice away from a disability centre and refurbishing allotments for adults with learning disabilities.

However, the scheme has attracted criticism from experts and Conservative MPs, including shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve who reportedly dismissed it as a “gimmick”.

Will McMahon, policy director at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, compared the policy to a “criminal justice version of the X-factor.”

Making Good was piloted at 18 councils in the North West in November and was rolled out across the North East yesterday by justice secretary Jack Straw. The Ministry of Justice spokesperson confirmed plans to roll out the scheme nationally.

The number of reparation orders handed to young offenders has risen in recent years. In 2007-8, reparation orders were issued to 3,691 offenders aged 15 to 17 compared with 2,554 in 2004-5 – a rise of 45%.

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