One of the reasons youth offenders are not detained in custody is there is nowhere to detain them. As recently as 2003 (and I am sure the rate will not have dropped) there were 215 apprehensions per 10,000 14-16 year-olds for violent offences. There are roughly 180,000 14-16 year-olds so almost 4,000 apprehensions in total.
Add to this violent offending of 10-13 year-olds (40 per 10,000 so roughly 1,000 in total).
5,000 violent offences.
CYF has a grand total of 102 beds available in its three Youth Justice residences. Hence young people spent 1,766 nights in police cells during 2006. Locked up with god knows who else. The approach to youth justice seems underpinned by a philosophy of denial. And it has been for at least 30 years. Or since the passage of the Children and Young Persons Act 1974, the broad objective of which was to deal with young people out of Court.
Giving the offender the benefit of the doubt appears to take precedence over any concerns for public safety. It also sits comfortably alongside the practical constraints.
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