Page last updated at 10:26 GMT, Monday, 30 November 2009

Public vote on youth punishments

Young offenders could be asked to clean graffiti

People are being given the chance to vote for how young offenders in the north west of England are punished.

A government website has been set up allowing users to suggest punishments for criminals aged between 10 and 17.

Voters can choose from tasks including cleaning graffiti, repairing vandalism, working in libraries and charity work.

The work can be ordered under new Youth Rehabilitation Orders (YROs), which ministers say give magistrates "smarter punishment" options.

The pilot Making Good scheme is being launched in Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire and Greater Manchester - but it could go nationwide in 2010.

'Repairing harm'

Frances Done, Youth Justice Board chair, said: "For the first time local people are being asked for specific ideas for community reparation which will benefit both their local area and the young person carrying out the work.

"Reparation work is vital in helping the young person understand the consequences of his or her actions while repairing the harm caused by their offence."

Youth reoffending teams taking part are in Blackburn, Blackpool, Bury, Halton, Warrington, Knowsley, Liverpool, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, St Helens, Salford, Sefton, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan and Wirral.

The government's new YROs were launched on Monday, giving magistrates more options to tailor punishments to the individual circumstances of the offender.

What we're doing is introducing a smarter and stronger system
Jack Straw, Justice Secretary

Community work is one of a number of elements of YROs, which also include electronic monitoring, curfews and substance abuse programmes.

The Justice Secretary Jack Straw told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the new system would be rigorous.

He said: "What we're doing is introducing a smarter and stronger system.

"It's a single order... the crown court judge or the youth justice magistrates can select a series of requirements in it.

"For example, a curfew, education attendant centres, drug treatment, drug testing.

"In certain cases, electronic monitoring - in other words tagging on a curfew. And right at the top end, intensive supervision and surveillance."

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