Bid to cut number of first time offenders

A YOUTH justice plan has been approved and will be adopted by North Somerset Council in an attempt to cut the number of first time offenders and youngsters going to jail.

At the full council meeting last week Mike Rees, service manager of the Youth Offending and Prevention Service which will work with the council, said even though there have been significant cuts to the service, it will still aim to reduce the number of first time entrants into the justice system.

He said: “It is a statutory plan of the council and it aims to reduce offending, first time offending and the cost of custody by diverting these young people away from the courts. The youth justice system is a preventative arm but it is in a dire financial situation.”

Last year the council recorded that 14 of 78 young people in North Somerset committed 111 of 165 offences.

Conservative councillor Jeremy Blatchford said: “This programme is an example of joint working and it has proved to be a particularly successful example of how to reduce offending.”

Some members of the council were not convinced by the initiative and Independent councillor Donald Davies said: “I find it disappointing that Cllr Blatchford wants to score points by pointing out a minority activity. We think it’s a cheap shot in the making.”

Mr Rees said: “There is an increase in people entering into the criminal justice system. And police often impose youth restorative disposals, which do not count as a criminal sanction, and gives a reduction in offending.

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“When it comes to re-offending a small number of people are responsible for disproportionate crime. We try to keep people on community orders, but some necessarily go to prison.”

Independent councillor David Shopland said: “This plan has reduced the number of first time entrants into the justice system and it is appalling that the council’s contributions have been cut by a third. Our youth services are important but not as important as keeping children out of prison.”