Law-abiding and Positive Behaviour

The second aim of the Make a Positive Contribution outcome is to “engage in law-abiding and positive behaviour in and out of school”. This section considers young offenders in the Bristol area.

Overall Trends in Youth Offending
Young offenders in education, training and employment (NI 45)
Young offenders receiving custodial sentences (NI 43)
Ethnicity of young offenders (NI44)
Age of young offenders
Gender of young offenders
Types of offences committed

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The Youth Offending Team is a criminal justice multi-agency public organisation supervising young people who are also young offenders (and working with their parents/carers and their victims). The YOT sends regular and detailed performance data to the Youth Justice Board, which oversees the youth justice system in England and Wales. The majority of the data below relating to youth offending is made available by the YJB.

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Overall Trends in Youth Offending

    06/07 07/08 08/09 09/10
All Offenders 1283 1155 919 796
First-Time Entrants 827 705 494 371

The number of 10 – 17 year-olds in Bristol receiving a Reprimand, a Final Warning or a Conviction has been decreasing steadily over the last four years:

Source: Youth Justice Board

The 40% reduction between 06/07 and 09/10 in the number of offenders in Bristol was particularly high: over the same period the Core Cities reduction was on average 33% whilst our statistical neighbours saw an average reduction of 29.1%. In times of economic recession it is instinctively held that crime increases, particularly property crime. The 2009/10 British Crime Survey[1] notes with some surprise that there was an 8% decrease in all crime from 08/09 to 09/10, and that domestic burglary was down by 6%.

There are similarly impressive results for First-Time Offenders (NI111) as can be seen in the graph below:

Source: Youth Justice Board

Again, the reduction of 55.1% over the four years outstrips the Core Cities and our Statistical Neighbours, whose average reductions were 43.6% and 46.1% respectively.

The reasons for the substantial reductions are several. Certainly by targeting services early towards children and young people most at risk of offending, the number of first-time entrants to the criminal justice system has been lowered. A recent thematic inspection of youth crime prevention[2] praised Bristol’s strong partnership approaches to child crime prevention issues. However, the recent introduction of the Youth Restorative Disposal, which aims to tackle low-level offending by the use of restorative justice rather than criminalise young people, will also have had an artificially positive effect, but even without this change in how this is measured it is clear that Bristol is performing well. The former chair of the Youth Justice Board Rod Morgan has stated that changes in Home Office targets for the police have removed the incentive to criminalise young people[3].

The correlation between deprivation and youth offending remains strong.

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Young offenders in education, training and employment (NI 45)

This indicator measures the proportion of young offenders who are actively engaged in education, training or employment. Active engagement is counted as at least 25 hours, (and those above statutory school age at least 16 hours), of Education, Training and Employment (ETE) in the last full working week of the disposal.

Bristol YOT’s significant progress in ETE performance reflects the investment of extra resources and of Board and management attention. For example, Connexions are committed to seconding 3 full-time PAs to the YOT’s ETE team.

Source: Youth Justice Board

It would appear that performance has plateaued around the 70% mark, reflecting the difficulties involved in finding ETE provision for a particularly difficult cohort of young people. An almost identical trend is shown by the average figures for the Core Cities and Bristol’s statistical neighbours:

Source: Youth Justice Board

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Young offenders receiving custodial sentences (NI 43)

Nationally, since its peak in 2002/03 the numbers of children and young people in the secure estate have fallen dramatically, and now stand at a low for the last decade. This is graphically demonstrated by this chart[4]:

Source: Youth Justice Board

* Provisional data
** This shows the average for provisional data for the period April 2010 to July 2010.

Bristol’s custody rate has not followed this trend. In the last four years there has been an increase in the proportion of sentences which were custodial and only in the last year has the number of custodial sentences decreased.

  06/07 07/08 08/09 09/10
% of Offenders  Receiving Custodial Sentences 5.28% 7.23% 8.15% 8.71%
Custodial Sentences 55 69 76 70

Percentage of sentences that were custodial (Bristol):

Source: Bristol City Council

Number of sentences that were custodial (Bristol):

Source: Bristol City Council

The cost of placing a young person in the secure estate is estimated at £1200 per week. At present this cost is met by the Youth Justice Board, but will transfer to Local Authorities. This would inevitably place even greater budgetary pressure on LAs, though arguably this would give LAs even greater incentive to keep the use of custody to an absolute minimum.

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Ethnicity of young offenders (NI44)

Bristol 06/07 07/08 08/09 09/10
% of BME in Criminal Justice System 18.6% 18.4% 18.8% 21.9%
% of BME in population 13.5% 13.5% 13.6% 14.0%

Source: Youth Justice Board

The over-representation of the BME population at each stage the criminal justice system has been an unacceptable, serious issue for several years, not just in Bristol, but nationally[5]. More specifically, in Bristol it is young black or dual-heritage people who are most severely over-represented, whereas the Asian population is under-represented. Efforts by the Bristol YOT to address this disparity appear to have made little difference (e.g. producing a Race Action Plan, improving access to ethnicity information, fostering stronger ties with organisations supporting young black people). The recent closure of Right Track, a Bristol organisation working with black children at risk of offending, will have further negative effects.

A recently published report, commissioned by the Youth Justice Board[6] stopped short of recommending BME-specific interventions, instead stating that this should be a local decision.

It would appear that robberies are more likely to be committed by young people from a BME background, as demonstrated by the following table. The seriousness of these offences carries a higher tariff sentence, which explains why the BME population is over-represented in custody figures:

  Number of Robberies Robberies by White Offenders % of Robberies Committed by White Offenders % of Robberies Committed by Other Ethnicity Offenders
2008/09 102 49 48.0% 52.0%
2007/08 62 36 58.1% 41.9%
2006/07 68 29 42.6% 57.4%
2005/06 65 22 33.8% 66.2%
2004/05 59 36 61.0% 39.0%

One would expect the ratio of white to BME to be in the region of 86 to 14.

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Age of young offenders

  10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Total
2004/2005 15 25 57 171 271 385 773 941 2638
2005/2006 11 54 85 185 371 426 599 748 2479
2006/2007 22 52 114 212 425 597 734 902 3058
2007/2008 18 61 86 224 343 527 651 638 2548
2008/2009 10 35 94 140 306 453 552 589 2179

NB The figures in this table relate to numbers of offences and not numbers of offenders

Source: Youth Justice Board

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Gender of young offenders

  Male Female Total % Male % Female
2004/2005 2277 361 2638 86.3% 13.7%
2005/2006 2116 363 2479 85.4% 14.6%
2006/2007 2465 593 3058 80.6% 19.4%
2007/2008 2102 446 2548 82.5% 17.5%
2008/2009 1738 441 2179 79.8% 20.2%

NB The figures in this table relate to numbers of offences and not numbers of offenders

Boys have always been the dominant gender, both nationally and locally over the last 5 years there has been a small but noticeable shift towards girls. In England and Wales during the period 2004/05 to 2008/2009 there was a significant reduction in the number of offences committed by boys – 17.2%. However, for girls the drop was a mere 3.9%. In Bristol, boys committed 23.8% fewer offences over the same period, whereas girls 22.2% more.

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Types of offences committed

Comparing 2004/2005 with 2008/2009, it is clear that the main explanation for the large drop in the number of offences is the decrease in Motoring Offences, a massive drop from 983 to 227. This is partly a side-effect of the decrease in car theft, as the majority of young people charged with car theft are simultaneously charged with driving without a licence and driving without insurance. Car theft has plummeted over the last decade due to technological improvements (such as mobilisers and central locking). In general there were increases in most offence categories (see next chart) most worthy of note being Domestic Burglary and Robbery, which increased by 112% and 73% respectively.

Source: Youth Justice Board

In 2008/09 female offenders accounted for 21.9% of proven offences. Female offenders are more likely to commit offences of theft and handling, violence and public order than other offences. Male offenders are more likely to commit offences of violence, theft and handling and criminal damage.

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[1] http://rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs10/hosb1210.pdf

[2] http://www.hmic.gov.uk/SiteCollectionDocuments/Joint%20Inspections/CJI_NFS_20100909.pdf

[3] http://www.cypnow.co.uk/news/ByDiscipline/Youth-Justice/996106/Ex-chair-Rod-Morgan-rejects-YJB-custody-claim/

[4] http://www.yjb.gov.uk/en-gb/search?LinkClick=%2Fcgi-bin%2FMsmGo.exe%3Fgrab_id%3D0%26page_id%3D23%26query%3Dethnicity%25202009%26hiword%3D2009%2520ETHNIC%2520ethnicity%2520

[5] http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/race_ethnicity/v002/2.1.goodman.pdf

[6] http://www.yjb.gov.uk/publications/Scripts/prodView.asp?idproduct=476

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