19 June 2008
The head of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, Frances Done, has urged magistrates and judges to impose fewer custodial terms on young offenders.
Done said on June 16 that she was determined to 'drive the numbers down'. She wants the courts to make greater use of community penalties.
Her comments coincided with new government plans to crack down on knife crime. While she welcomed government moves to ensure that more 16 and 17-year-olds are prosecuted for carrying knives, she conceded it could lead to more custodial sentences.
'There is obviously a risk that this will drive higher numbers into the youth justice system,' she said. 'What we have to make sure is that we use that opportunity to identify those young people who really need the support and attention, who otherwise might not come to the attention of the criminal justice system until something much more serious happens.'
About 2,900 10–17-year-olds are currently in secure children's homes, training centres and young offender institutions.