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Tuesday, June 1, 1999 Published at 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK


UK

Courts warned over locking up children

Young people are more likely to offend while on bail than older people

Courts have been urged not to overuse new powers to lock up hard core offenders as young as 12.

The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (Nacro) warns that the powers, which come into effect from 1 June, could lead to more children being jailed.

Up until now children aged 12 and over have been able to be remanded in jail before trial, but only if a local authority applies for a secure accommodation order against them.

Now courts will no longer require this order.

The powers were introduced after media reports of "bail bandits", young offenders who persistently offended while on bail.

They included a 15-year old called the "Boomerang Boy" from County Durham who was reported to have committed more than 1,000 crimes.

The government said it wanted to stop young offenders becoming life-long criminals.

Bail support

Nacro says it understands that juvenile offenders are up to three times more likely to offend while on bail awaiting trial than older people.

Its director of policy Paul Cavadino said: "All too often young people dig themselves deeper and deeper into trouble by reoffending on bail and in the end face harsher punishment as persistent offenders."

But it says remand fostering or bail support programmes could counter this and offer a better option for children.

Bail support programmes include close supervision of young offenders and Nacro says they have been shown to reduce offending on bail "dramatically".

Mr Cavadino said: "They give the courts a more constructive option than remanding young defendants to secure institutions."

The government has recently pledged £13m for bail support schemes and Nacro welcomes this move.



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