The youth justice system

Children and young people in the youth justice system (YJS)

Note: The figures presented below show the latest available data in April 2012. To ensure you are using the most up-to-date data, check the annual Youth justice statistics on the Ministry of Justice website.

The number of young people in the youth justice system (YJS)

Information about the number of young people in the youth justice system (YJS) is available on the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) website as Youth justice statistics and is updated annually.

In each area the number of children and young people in contact with the formal YJS is relatively small. There were 85,300 children and young people supervised by a youth offending team (YOT) in 2010/11 and 45,519 of these children were first-time entrants to the YJS.

The overwhelming majority of children and young people in contact with the YJS remain in the community throughout that contact. In 2010/11, an average of 2,222 children and young people were in custody at any one time (including those on remand), although more than eight times as many entered custody during the course of the year.

It is important to bear in mind that some children and young people are in contact with the police or youth offending team (YOT) even though they are not in the formal YJS. Children under 10 might have been identified as at risk of offending and be receiving preventive or early help services. Those aged 10 or over might be involved with the police or YOT because of anti-social behaviour or because they have committed an offence that can be dealt with by the police without the need for referral to the YOT. National data on the numbers involved here is not easy to access. Data collected by the Home Office indicates that in 2009/10 a total of 241,737 children and young people (aged 10-17) were arrested for an offence, but this figure would not include those dealt with by the police without a formal arrest.

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Gender, age and ethnicity of children and young people

In the YJS overall

The majority of children and young people in the YJS are male (78 per cent).

In 2010/11, the ethnicity of all those supervised by a YOT is as follows:

  • 82 per cent from a White ethnic background
  • 7 per cent from a Black ethnic background
  • 4 per cent from an Asian ethnic background
  • 4 per cent from a Mixed ethnic background
  • 1 per cent from an Other ethnic background, with
  • 2 per cent recorded as ethnic background Unknown.

In England, young people from a Black ethnic background accounted for 3 per cent of the 10-17 year old general population in 2009 but 7 per cent of the offending population in 2010/11.

Young people from an Asian ethnic background accounted for 7 per cent of the 10-17 year old general population in 2009 and 4 per cent of the 10-17 offending population that year.

In 2010/11, the breakdown by age of children supervised by a YOT was:

  • 22,206 children aged 10-14 (26 per cent of the YOT caseload)
  • 63,094 young people aged 15-17.

18,941 of the above were female (22 per cent of the total).

In custody

In 2010/11:

  • Around 95 per cent of the young people (under 18) held in the secure estate were male
  • 95 per cent of young people in custody were aged 15-17, so only 5% were aged 10-14
  • 64 per cent of the young people held in custody were from a White ethnic background. This compares to 86 per cent of young people from a White ethnic background in the general 10-17 population. By contrast, 17 per cent of young people in custody were from a Black ethnic background, compared to their constituting 3 per cent of the general 10-17 population.
  • 22 per cent of young people from a White ethnic background in custody were held on remand (as opposed to having been sentenced), compared to 34 per cent of young people in custody from a Black ethnic background.

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Offences, and time in custody

The most common offences for which children and young people are sentenced to custody are offences of violence, robbery, burglary and breach of statutory order.

Overall, the average length of time spent in custody is 78 days. The main variation depends on whether the child or young person is on remand, and so awaiting a sentence, and – if sentenced – on the type of sentence the court has given. The average period of time spent in custody by those who have been remanded to custody (26 per cent of those in custody) is 41 days. The most common sentence (55 per cent of those in custody) is a Detention and Training Order (DTO). This is a determinate custodial sentence of between 4 and 24 months. A young person spends the first half of the order in custody and the second half in the community ‘released on licence’. The average length of time in custody for a DTO is 111 days. For children and young people on longer sentences (19 per cent of those in custody), including those serving an indeterminate sentence, it is 374 days.

Note: The figures presented above show the latest available data in April 2012. To ensure you are using the most up-to-date data, check the annual Youth justice statistics on the Ministry of Justice website.

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