Youth Justice Board Annual Statistics 2022-2023

Reoffences and First-Time Entrants on the Rise for the First Time in a Decade, amid Historic Custody Lows and Continued Overrepresentation of Black Children

The Youth Justice Board (YJB) has published its 2022-2023 statistics on children in the youth justice system in England & Wales.

The annual statistics reveal an increase in both the number of reoffences and new entrants to the youth justice system, marking a notable shift after a decade of decline. At the same time, the number of children in custody has reached a historic low. The data also highlights the continued overrepresentation of Black children in the system.

Details

Stop and search and arrest data

For the year ended March 2023, there were approximately 107,800 stop and searches of children, a 13% increase from the previous year. By contrast, the figure remained static for adults.

The vast majority of stop and searches of children resulted in No Further Action (around 83,400 or 77%), while around 10,400 (10%) resulted in arrest, 6,200 (6%) resulted in Community Resolutions and 7,800 (7%) resulted in other outcomes including Cannabis Warnings, Seizure of Property or Verbal Warnings. There is a notable 9% increase from the previous year in the number of children arrested, though this number is still below pre-pandemic figures.

First Time Entrants (FTEs) to the system

In the year ended March 2023, the youth justice system saw nearly 8,400 child FTEs – a 1% increase from the previous year, which marks the first rise in a decade. However, this was also the second lowest number of child FTEs in the time series.

Compared with the previous year, the number of child FTEs aged 10 to 14 increased by 7%, the first year-on-year increase in the last ten years while the number of child FTEs aged 15 to 17 decreased by 1%.

The number of child FTEs who are girls has fallen by 82% over the last two years and the number decreased by 69% for child FTEs who are boys. There continues to be more boys than girls who are child FTEs, with 84% of the total child FTEs comprised of boys in the year ended December 2022.

Additionally, the number of white child FTEs increased by 2%. There has been a decline in the number of FTEs for children from ethnic minority groups; most notably, an 8% decrease in the number of Black child FTEs, followed by a 6% decline in the number of Asian child FTEs.

Types of offences committed by child FTEs

For the year ended December 2022, the most common offences committed by child FTEs included summary offenses excluding motoring (21%), possession of weapon offenses (19%), and violence against the person offenses (19%). Compared to the year ended December 2012, the proportion of theft offenses has decreased from 25% to 11%.

Sentencing of children

In the year ended March 2023,

  • there were just over 11,900 instances of children being sentenced at court, representing an 8% year-on-year increase and marking the first increase in a decade;
  • sentencing occasions for indictable offences involving Black children decreased by 13% compared to the previous year but increased by 12% for white children;
  • the average duration from offense to completion was 207 days, a slight improvement from 217 days in the previous year but still significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels;
  • the number of custodial sentences has decreased by 4% compared to the previous year, continuing the trend of decline in each of the last ten years;
  • the average length of custodial sentences for all offences has decreased by nearly four months compared to the previous year, standing at 19.6 months; and
  • there was an average of approximately 440 children in custody at any given time during the year, reflecting a 3% decrease compared to the previous year. This figure represents the lowest number on record.

Reoffending by children

For the year ended March 2022 (the latest available data), the proven reoffending rate stands at 32.2%, which is an increase of 0.9 percentage points from the previous year. This is the first increase in the reoffending rate in eight years, but also the second lowest rate in the time series.

The number of reoffences by children has increased (by 3% compared to the year before, which is the first increase in a decade), though the number of children in the annually aggregated cohort and the number of children who have reoffended continues to fall (by 13% and 11% respectively). Despite these declines, the average frequency rate of reoffences per reoffender reached its highest point in ten years at 4.07, which is a 15% increase from the previous year and a 30% increase compared to the decade before.

Ethnic disproportionality in the youth justice system

While there have been some reductions in the proportion of Black children accounted for across several areas including youth cautions, arrests, stop and searches, first-time entrants, children in custody and sentencing, Black children continue to be overrepresented across most stages of the youth justice system. Black children were disproportionately involved in 20% of stop and searches (being the only ethnic group overrepresented compared with the population). This figure is also 14 percentage points higher than in 2021. By contrast, there was an increase of 1 percentage point in the proportion of white children involved in stop and searches compared with the previous year.

Additionally, Black children continued to be overrepresented in youth cautions and sentences, accounting for 11% of all such cases compared to their 6% share of the aged 10 to 17 population. However, it is worth noting that there was a 10% decrease in the number of Black children cautioned or sentenced compared to the previous year.

Commentary

Despite some improvements, these statistics highlight the continued persistence of ethnic disproportionality at different stages of the youth justice system. In a recent article, YJB chair, Keith Fraser stated: “This will be the third year we have seen improvements in disproportionality, although there is still a long way to go”. In publishing these statistics, the YJB welcomes any feedback, which can be sent to [email protected].

Written by

Adeline Tsui (Associate) and Zuaib Kassam (Trainee) at Paul Hastings LLP