Youth Crime: ‘Councils Not Pulling Weight’

Cathy Jamieson, Justice Minister, has admitted she is disappointed after figures showing the number of children responsible for serial crimes had risen since she began a crackdown three years ago. But she renewed her pledge to cut Scotland’s army of persistent young offenders to under 1000 by 2008. The Scottish Executive aimed to reduce the number of persistent youth offenders from 1201 in 2003-2004 by 10% by this year and by 20% by 2008.

As first reported in The Herald, the actual number of young people who qualified as persistent offenders hit 1388 in 2005-2006.

Ms Jamieson admitted she was disappointed but suggested councils and other agencies were not pulling their weight.

She said: “Too many areas are still not delivering the necessary improvements for their local communities and are not progressing towards nationally agreed standards of performance, particularly in terms of persistent young offenders.

“If we all redouble our efforts to tackle the problems of youth crime and anti-social behaviour, we can make Scotland safer for everyone, including our young people, who are disproportionately affected by youth crime.”

Cosla yesterday insisted its members were making a difference to offending.

Eric Jackson, its spokesman on youth justice, said: “Yes, persistent offender referrals are up, but the report also shows that on average the number of referrals per offender is down.

“This shows that once a persistent offender has been identified, councils are successful in reducing offending.”

The Association of Directors of Social Work has recently warned that the rising tide of referrals to children’s reporters – mostly for children’s own care and protection rather than their offending – was putting untold strain on both the children’s hearing system and council social work departments.

A spokeswoman said: “Youth crime is only one part of a much wider system of support, care and protection – a system that has been significantly under-funded by the executive for many years, and one which is coming under intense pressure in terms of a surge in volume of demand.

“The consequences of this pressure need to be acknowledged, and funding made available to ensure that children’s services are able to deliver the changes that we all want.”

Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie warned Ms Jamieson not to pass the buck for failure on to councils and other agencies.

She said: “Now that we can clearly see the pledges to cut youth offending by 10% are dead in the water, perhaps the executive would be willing to listen to alternative options, rather than dogmatically pursuing its own agenda which has actually overseen an increase in youth crime – failure of the highest order.”

In The Herald the SNP said Ms Jamieson had “lost her grip” on serial youth crime.