In the Media

More teenagers spared jail are re-offending

PUBLISHED April 27, 2012

But re-offending levels have fallen among under-18s who were locked up, according to the Ministry of Justice data.

The contrast is likely to prompt fresh claims that "prison works".

Separate statistics published on Thursday show almost 1,000 criminals are still at large despite being recalled to prison in recent years.

The MoJ figures on re-offending show that overall, more than one in four criminals goes on to commit more offences within a year of being sentenced or released from jail.

The "one-year proven re-offending rate" stands at 26.4 per cent in the year to June 2010, the most recent figure, a fall of 1.5 percentage points since 2000.

More than three-quarters (79.6 per cent) of repeat crimes were carried out by adults and half (53.8 per cent) were the work of career criminals with 25 or more previous convictions.

But younger offenders are less likely to go straight.

The re-offending rate for juveniles stands at 34.1 per cent compared with 24.9 per cent for adults, although five times as many adults go through the criminal justice system.

According to the MoJ report, the group recording the "biggest increase" in the re-offending rate over the past decade was "juveniles who received a community penalty".

The figures show that in 2000, 60.5 per cent of under-18s given supervision orders, curfew orders or community punishment orders went on to re-offend.

But by June 2010 that proportion had risen by 9 per cent, to reach 66 per cent.

Over the same period, the proportion of juveniles sent to prison who went on to commit more crimes fell from 76.8 per cent to 69.3 per cent.

However the MoJ claimed the contrasting figures could be misleading, as far fewer youths are being given non-custodial sentences, leaving a few thousand recidivists.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Sentencing is a matter for the courts, but sentences must be proportionate to the offence. While longer custodial sentences may give more time to deliver interventions, this is not the only way to tackle offending behaviour.

"We are currently consulting on the future shape of community sentences which can also be effective by curtailing freedom through tagged curfews, requiring offenders to payback to the community and allowing them to maintain vital links to family and work."

A separate update on "offender management" showed that the prison population rose slightly over the past year to reach 87,531 at the end of March.

The biggest rise was among "non criminal" detainees such as illegal immigrants, while there has been a sharp fall in "fine defaulters" behind bars.

Over the past decade, 135,000 prisoners who had been released on licence were recalled to jail either for breaching their conditions or committing further crimes.

But of these, 962 remain at large although this may include some who have died or moved overseas.

Among the wanted criminals still on the loose, 128 had originally been jailed for violent offences and 35 for sex crimes.

The MoJ pointed out that in 99 per cent of cases where an offender has been recalled, the individual has successfully been returned to custody.