Press Release: A million children convicted in a decade

More than a million children have been convicted of a criminal offence and another million cautioned since Labour came to power, according to research by the Liberal Democrats.

The figures, contained in answer to a Parliamentary Question, show that:

· 1,033,454 children aged between 10 and 17 have been convicted of a criminal offence since 1997. This includes almost 30,000 10 to 12 year olds.

· The number of 10 to 17 year-olds convicted in West Mercia has risen by 78% to more than 2000 a year. (1,163 to 2,072)

· Between 1997 and 2007 the West Midlands convicted 66,752 10 to 17 year olds, the second highest number outside of London.

The figures are broken down by police force area in the attached spreadsheet.

Dr Charles West, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Shrewsbury and Atcham said “Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin are doing some excellent work using Restorative justice in their work involving Young Offenders, but we need to do much more to prevent young people getting involved in crime in the first place.

“Even a minor conviction for a young person can lead to great difficulties when seeking employment. Habitual offenders are likely to be sent to prison at great cost to the taxpayer and with a 77% likelihood of re-offending within a year of release.

“It makes no sense to spend £30,000 a year keeping someone in prison when providing a community centre or a youth club could divert them away from the vandalism and criminal activities that cause so much damage and distress.”

“It is a disgrace the Government spends eleven times more locking up our young people than it does on backing projects to stop them getting involved in crime in the first place.

“Labour talks tough on crime, and then creates more criminals. It’s time to talk sense and act smart to stop the young offenders of today becoming the hardened criminals of tomorrow.

“We need to see innovative approaches that ensure children make amends to their victims and put things right, rather than immediately criminalising them.”

The Liberal Democrats propose a new approach to youth justice, tackling potential offenders before they enter the criminal justice system. Community Justice Panels should be established to draw up Positive Behaviour Orders (PBOs), which require minor offenders to agree on a course of action to pay back the community they have wronged.

The party is also committed to putting 10,000 extra police officers on the beat by scrapping the Government’s national ID card scheme. More officers will enable higher visibility policing at gun and knife crime hot spots and provide improved capability for intelligence-led stop and search.

The Liberal Democrats aim to engage young people and provide activities that will divert them from crime. The party will create a Youth Volunteer Force for every area, with young people working with local authorities on projects that serve the community.

ENDS Notes to Editors

1. A spreadsheet is attached and includes a regional breakdown.

2. The figures came in answer to a Parliamentary Question. The Ministry of Justice placed the figures in the House of Commons Library. Convictions and cautions from 2007 are the latest figures available.

3. A copy of the Liberal Democrat policy on youth crime is available at

http://tiny.cc/youthcrime

For more information contact:

Dr Charles West
Parliamentary Candidate: Shrewsbury and Atcham Liberal Democrats
3 Bellstone,
Shrewsbury
SY1 1HU
tel:   07775 800744

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