The Youth Justice Board and the Ministry of Justice have published statistics for children and young people in the criminal justice system in England and Wales for the year ending March 2017.
Overall the statistics show a continuing decline in the number of children entering the criminal justice system and in the number being cautioned, convicted and sentenced to custody. However, it is concerning that there is a steady increase in the disportionate representation of BAME children in the youth justice system. The following points are of concern:
- Children from BAME backgrounds account for 45 % of the custodial population despite only making up 18% of the 10 – 17 year old general population.
- 42.2 % of children and young people in the system re-offend. This is a 4 % increase in the last 10 years.
- Children from BAME background account for 28% of the children and young people arrested.
- The number of Youth Cautions for white children fell by 24% but for BAME children it fell by 10%
- The number of first time entrants in to the system is falling but the proportion of those receiving a conviction has increased from 8% to 39 % in the last 10 years.
- BAME children account for 24 % of first time entrants in to the system. This year the rate of white first time entrants fell by 17% but the rate of BAME children fell by 2%.
- Offences committed by children involving a knife or offensive weapon have increased by 11% in the last 5 years.
- The number of convictions for weapons and robbery offences has increased by 8% and 6% respectively.
- The proportion of violence against the person offences has steadily increased over the last 10 years and now accounts for 28 % of all offences.
- The number of proven sexual offences has increased by 7% to around 2000 offences last year.
- The average length of custodial sentences for indictable offences for children has increased from 11 to 16 months in the last 10 years.
- 54 % of children and young people in the average custodial remand population are of BAME background.
The reduced number of children in the criminal justice system is news to be welcomed. The disproportionate number of BAME children being arrested, convicted and detained is gravely concerning and these statistics require urgent scrutiny. Following on from the Lammy Report it is a stark reminder to practitioners to be alert to this issue.