Commission on youth crime and anti-social behaviour

Restorative justice – requiring young offenders to face up to the harm they have caused their victims and to make amends – is placed at the heart of wide-ranging reform proposals published today by the Independent Commission on Youth Crime and Antisocial Behaviour.

The Commission, which is funded by the Foundation, conducted an in-depth study over 18 months of alternatives to the existing response to youth crime in England and Wales. It concludes that restorative meetings known as ‘youth conferencing’ are the way to deliver better justice for the victims of crime, while cutting reoffending rates and reducing the number of young people who end up in prison.

A fresh start
Its report Time for a Fresh Start, estimates the public service costs of dealing with youth crime and antisocial behaviour as more than £4 billion a year. It also argues that many millions of pounds are being wasted each year on custody for the under-18s. Despite each secure place costing taxpayers between £69,000 and £193,000 a year, as many as three out of four young offenders are re-convicted within a year of completing their sentence.

Target of 50% cut in custody
The Commission sets a target for the current use of custody to be halved to fewer than a thousand young offenders at any one time without adding to crime rates and compromising public safety. And it urges a significant reinvestment of resources in early intervention to tackle seriously antisocial behaviour among children, prevent later offending and save more money for the taxpayer.

It also calls for an end to the long-running ‘arms race’ between politicians who have vied to sound tougher than each other in their rhetoric about youth crime, but have been unable to deliver a youth justice system that commands public confidence, reduces re-offending or reintegrates young offenders with the rest of society.