Youth Justice Board publishes annual statistics 2020-2021 highlighting continued overrepresentation of black children

Youth Justice Board – Youth Justice Statistics 2020/21

The Youth Justice Board (YJB) has published its annual statistics about children in the youth justice system in England & Wales.

While the statistics show a decrease in the number of children who come into contact with the youth justice system, a key caveat is the continued overrepresentation of Black children in the system. An over-arching factor to be taken into consideration when analysing this year’s statistics is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for which the report also contains separate summary analysis.


Likely impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic

Although many areas of the youth justice system analysed have shown a downward trend during the last decade, there was an accelerated fall in certain figures in the previous year which may have been a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many factors contributed to changes in the workings of the youth justice system during the pandemic, including Government restrictions such as court closures and pauses to jury trials, which resulted in increasing court backlogs. There were also changes to people’s behaviour due to reduced social contact. For children, this included long periods of home schooling, which may have consequently reduced offending and reoffending rates in this period.

Stop and search data

For the first time, data on stop and searches on children is available for analysis.

For the year ending March 2021, there were approximately 115,600 stop and searches of children and the vast majority of these (98%) were carried out under Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984. This section enables police to exercise their stop and search powers to search a person or vehicle where they have reasonable grounds to suspect that they will find prohibited items including offensive weapons or drugs.

Despite stop and searches being a key entry point into the youth justice system, 81% of these stop and searches of children (around 93,800) resulted in No Further Action, with just 8% resulting in arrest, 3% in Community Resolutions and 7% in other outcomes including use of formal warnings or seizure of property. Data on youth cautions for the year ending March 2021 was separated between cautions and sentences.

First Time Entrants to the system

Children who are FTEs to the youth justice system have been steadily decreasing in number between the year ending 2011, when the number of child FTEs was approximately 46,000, to a figure of around 8,800 for the year ending March 2021. It is also important to note that a 20% decrease occurred in the previous year from 11,100 to 8,800, which was the biggest decrease year on year for eight years, although this is likely partly due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Reoffending by children

The proven reoffending rate for children for the year ending March 2020, which is the latest available data, fell by 3.6% to 34.2%. This is in line with the long-term trend which has seen a fall in the number of children who reoffend each year for the last six years. Although the reoffending rate is currently at its lowest on record, due to a larger decrease between this year and the previous one, this has likely been affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Certain other factors are correlated to the rate of reoffending, such as the type of offence committed and the child’s individual criminal history.

Despite the downhill trend in the reoffending rate for children, a significant point demonstrated in the statistics is that they still had the highest reoffending rate, at 34.2% when compared to young adults (aged 18-20) and adults (aged 21+) whose reoffending rates were 24% and 25.2% respectively.

Ethnic disproportionality in the youth justice system

There continues to be a significant disproportionality in outcomes for Black children in the youth justice system. There has been an increase in the proportion of children cautioned or sentenced who are Black in the last ten years, with the percentage at 12% for the year ending March 2021 compared to 7% in the year ending March 2011. The percentage of children from a Mixed ethnic background receiving a caution or sentence in the latest year has also seen an increase to 10%, up from 4% in 2011.

All ethnic groups have experienced a decrease in the average youth custody population over the last 10 years due to a decrease in the whole youth custody population, with the proportion of children in youth custody who are white falling from 68% in 2011 to 47% for the year ending 2021. However, the proportion of children from a Black ethnic background has increased from 18% in 2011 to 29% now, with a similar increase in the proportion of children from a Mixed ethnic background.

Black children also constitute 15% of arrests amongst children and 34% of the proportion of children in custody on remand, whilst constituting just 4% of the UK’s child population, which shows the stark disproportionality.


The overall picture painted by the latest year’s youth justice statistics is one of a downward trend in the number of children offending, with the raw number of children reoffending and in custody both at their lowest levels. Whilst difficult to precisely measure its impact, this fall was likely accelerated in the last year due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is possible that following the easing of Government COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in 2022 the statistics for future years will indicate an increase, or a slower decrease.

Notwithstanding these successes, there remains significant ethnic disproportionality reflected at every stage of the youth justice system, with the proportion of Black children represented in different areas on the increase. It is hoped that the publication of data included in these reports will result in policies that aim to tackle this pressing issue.

The report also welcomes any feedback, and asks for this to be sent to [email protected]. We would encourage stakeholders in the youth justice system to provide any feedback they have to the email address above, in order to continue to make the information collected within the annual reports more robust, and hopefully improve the support available for children going forward.

Written by

Louise Ferdjani, Associate, Paul Hastings LLP and Rohin Ghosh Dastidar, Associate, Paul Hastings LLP