Moves to extend Perthshire youth crime programme

A HIGHLY successful anti-crime scheme for young offenders has been given a temporary reprieve.

In March the Perthshire Advertiser reported that Right Track, a sentencing option used at Perth Sheriff Court, was to be scrapped due to a lack of funding.

That led to an angry blast from a sheriff – but now it’s been confirmed that a bid to continue the programme is being organised by criminal justice workers and the Scottish Government.

Funding which secures the programme until the end of June was made available, but Perth and Kinross Council is hoping to see if it can be retained in the longer term.

In March, Sheriff Michael Fletcher blasted the authorities after learning that funding for Right Track was running out.

He went on to ask why the Scottish Government wasn’t prepared to extend the funding, branding not doing so a “disaster”.

But last week at the same court, his brother sheriff Robert McCreadie said he was “delighted” by the extension of the scheme.

The Right Track scheme works with young offenders to look at their offence and the reasons behind it. From there those on the scheme can access further help to steer them away from a possible life of crime.

Nearly 100 youngsters in Perth and Kinross-shire have been helped in the past by the scheme in the past two years.

A report written for the Tayside Criminal Justice Authority meeting last September reported the scheme, aimed at 16-21-year-olds, had taken in 141 offenders at that point, with the author saying that was “considerably higher take-up than was originally anticipated”

From 70 people who had completed the scheme, only 11 received a custodial sentence for non-compliance or further offending.

At that point Perth and Kinross reported a 90.5 per cent – 38 out of 42 clients – completion success rate.

Confirming its wish to extend the scheme, a spokesperson for Perth and Kinross Council said: “The Right Track programme has contributed towards a significant reduction in the offending behaviour of those involved in the programme as well as activities associated with offending such as drug and alcohol misuse.

“Across Tayside, during the first year of the programme the levels of remand and short sentences of imprisonment for younger offenders have also reduced significantly.

“As a council, we would be keen to see the continuation of Right Track in some form, as one of the alternatives to custodial sentencing available within Perth and Kinross.

“Transitional funding was made available by the Scottish Government through the Tayside Community Justice Authority to enable the programme to continue until the end of June 2011.

“We are currently in correspondence with the Scottish Government, on behalf of the CJA, regarding the long-term future of Right Track and changes to the funding mechanism for Criminal Justice Social Work Services felt necessary to enable this to happen in Tayside.”